Tuesday federal headlines – August 27, 2013

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • You might want to work from home tomorrow. The Office of Personnel Management says District roads will be clogged with people and security surrounding the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. OPM is urging agencies to let eligible employees telework or adjust their schedules. It says feds who come into the city should allow extra time for travel. Metro recorded more than 450,000 trips Saturday, when the National Mall hosted a commemorative march. That’s 1.5 times the normal ridership for Saturdays in August. Many more people are expected tomorrow. (Federal News Radio)
  • Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has told Congress the government will run out of money sometime in mid-October. That is, unless lawmakers vote to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, which now stands at $16.7 trillion. Lew’s letter went to House Speaker John Boehner. It says the Treasury is running out of accounting gimmicks. The letter says the government will be down to $50 billion in cash, not enough to cover Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. (Associated Press)
  • One contractor has withdrawn its protest over a planned new government-wide acquisition contract. The General Services Administration says it reached an amicable agreement with U.S. Falcon. The company had lodged a protest with the Government Accountability Office just after GSA released the request for quotes for its OASIS services deal. GSA did not describe the agreement. GSA still faces an agency-level protest filed by Aljucar-Anvil-Incus. Bids for a spot on OASIS are due Sept. 17. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Air Force is doubling the vendors on a $7 billion computer contract following protests. Reuters reports, the service has added eight companies to Network-Centric Solutions-2, or NETCENTS-2. Some companies had filed protests with the Government Accountability Office after losing places on the initial contract. The six-year NETCENTS-2 is for buying commercially-available computer equipment like services and networking gear. (Reuters)
  • Two federal agencies are at loggerheads over how to deal with a California refinery fire. It sent 15,000 people to the hospital. The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has gone to court to stop the EPA’s criminal proceedings against Chevron. The board has conducted more than 100 interviews to try and get at the root cause of the accident. The EPA is seeking to punish the company. Rafael Moure-Eraso is chairman of the investigation board. He says subpoenas coming from the Justice Department on behalf of EPA make people clam up. He says that makes it harder to get to the bottom of the California fire, which occurred a year ago. (Associated Press)
  • The Interior Department is restoring $110 million in mineral payments to states. Officials reversed course after studying the law dictating mineral leasing payments. Interior officials previously defended the cuts by saying they had no choice in the matter under budget rules now in place. The agency had held back payments to more than two dozen states that are home to oil, gas and coal extraction on federal lands. Western lawmakers and governors had pressed the White House to restore the money. It comes primarily from payments by oil and gas companies and royalties. (Associated Press)
  • Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter has become the fifth post 9/11 veteran to receive the Medal of Honor. President Barack Obama called Carter “the essence of true heroism” during the medal ceremony. Carter risked his life to save an injured soldier, resupply ammunition to his comrades and give first aid during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2009. Eight soldiers died in that attack on Command Outpost Keating. Carter suffers from post-traumatic stress. He says he wants to help the public better understand the “invisible wounds” of war. (Associated Press)
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is finding his tour of Asia profitable. For at least three Defense contractors anyhow. The Pentagon has agreed to sell Indonesia eight new Apache attack helicopters and Longbow radars. The deal is worth $500 million. The helicopters are made by Boeing. The radars by Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Boeing has been supplying Apaches to the Army for 30 years. U.S. military personnel will train the Indonesians on how to use the choppers for counter-piracy and maritime awareness. Hagel is making the rounds of the Southeast Asian nations of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. (Defense Department)
  • Federal employees are traveling way less. Compared to last year, federal travel card spending is down 17 percent. Federal Times reports, charges to the General Services Administration’s SmartPay cards has fallen from $7.3 billion to $6 billion. Travel spending also fell in 2012. A White House spokesman says an aggressive campaign to cut conference spending is behind the reduction in travel card charges. The GSA itself has cut travel spending by two thirds. (Federal Times)
  • Just months from now, April 8, 2014 to be exact, Microsoft will withdraw support for its Windows XP operating system. The company will continue to develop security patches for XP for years, but it will no longer give them away. Computerworld reports, organizations still running Windows XP will have to pay for patches. The fixes will be available only to customers who sign up for Microsoft Custom Support. Analysts say Custom Support costs $200 a year per machine in the first year. It goes up after that. An estimated 10 percent of PC’s in the United States are still running XP. (Computerworld)
  • Federal regulators and law enforcement are reaching out to advocates for the virtual currency Bitcoin. Reuters reports, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has hosted a presentation by the Bitcoin Foundation. Officials say the meeting is part of efforts to enhance communication with the industries they regulate. Virtual currency exchanges must register with the government like other financial institutions. But federal officials say Bitcoin and other digital currencies appeal to criminals engaged in money laundering because the tracks are easier to cover. (Reuters)