Wednesday federal headlines – August 7, 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 users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Not 11, but six. The Pentagon has cut the number of furlough days it is requiring civilian employees to take. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the department has found enough savings elsewhere. Late last month, Congress approved the Pentagon’s request to spend money that had been set aside for acquisition on daily operations. Hagel says the department has spent less on transporting equipment out of Afghanistan than it had expected. Officials plan to restore money for Air Force training and flight hours too, along with training for about six Army brigade combat teams. (Associated Press)
  • Civilian employees of the Defense Department are heading back to work this morning knowing it’s finally business as usual. The Pentagon is cutting the number of furlough days it is requiring civilians to take from 11 to six. Many employees have already taken those six days off unpaid. The American Federation of Government Employees says the Pentagon should reimburse those workers for the loss in pay. Meanwhile, lawmakers are pleased with the announcement but some are using it to call for more action. Rep. Rob Wittman’s (R-Va.) district is heavily dependent on the Navy. He says Congress should return to Washington to end the sequester. (AFGE)
  • No more furlough days will hit the Department of Defense Education Activity this school year. That’s according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at a background briefing yesterday. He announced the department’s plans to cut furlough days from 11 to six. DODEA students and teachers were set to lose five days at the beginning of the school year. Defense officials say all other employees must make sure they take 6 furlough days before August 17th. (DODEA)
  • Cairo airport officials are telling Reuters, the top U.S. diplomat in Egypt has left the country after peace talks broke down. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns made no comment as he departs. He and other foreign envoys had been trying to help break a 10-day standoff between the interim government and the Muslim Brotherhood. Almost 300 people have been killed in political violence since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi. (Reuters)
  • The Justice Department has filed the first criminal charges in the Benghazi attack. As first reported by CNN and the Wall Street Journal, Ahmed Abu Khattalah is among the suspects thought to be named in the sealed indictment. Abu Khattalah is a Libyan militia leader. A Justice Department spokesperson says the investigation is ongoing and remains a top priority. Earlier this year, the FBI released photos of three of the five suspects. The images were retrieved from security cameras at the US diplomatic post. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, died in the attack. (Associated Press)
  • The Defense Department opened its first joint information environment operations center in Germany. That’s according to a report from FedScoop. The new center aims to protect Defense information networks and IT infrastructure for the U.S. Africa Command and European Command, Defense Information Systems Agency officials say. It also acts as a main entry point for the department’s cyber security missions. The Defense Department says it plans to open more of these joint information centers in other locations. (FedScoop)
  • It’s a done deal. The General Services Administration has given Donald Trump the keys to the Old Post Office Building in downtown Washington. GSA says it finalized the agreement with Trump’s real estate company Monday night at the end of a Congressional review period. Trump is leasing the building for 60 years at a cost of $200 million. He is turning it into a mixed-use development with restaurants, a spa, conference space and a luxury hotel. The hotel is scheduled to open in 2016. (GSA)
  • NASA’s second-in-command is leaving the agency. Lori Garver will step down next month to lead the Air Line Pilots Association. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced her departure. He called her a talented and passionate co-pilot who had led the way on the commercial crew and cargo program, the re-establishment of a space technology mission and the agency’s wide use of challenges and prizes. White House Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren cited Garver for encouraging women and other underrepresented groups to engage in science, technology, engineering and math. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Navy is scrapping a nuclear-powered submarine damaged by fire last year. Officials blamed budget cuts. Rear Adm. Rick Breckengridge says repairing the USS Miami would have forced the Navy to cancel work on dozens of other ships. He says that would have hurt fleet readiness. Repairs would have cost more than $450 million. The Miami had been docked at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Maine and New Hampshire senators criticized the Navy’s decision. In a statement, they said the choice would mean a loss to the country’s nuclear submarine fleet. The Navy had said the Miami could have served another 10 years. Shipyard worker Casey James Fury is serving 17 years in prison for setting the fire.(Associated Press)
  • Auditors say the government is far behind in testing the IT security systems critical to Obamacare. Now it’s pushing up against a deadline. Come Oct. 1, Americans should be able to buy health insurance on new state exchanges. They will type their names, income and other personal information into an online application. That data will be sent through a federal data hub to agencies including the IRS. The Department of Health and Human Services has yet to certify the IT system as secure, Reuters reports. It has pushed back the deadline to September. The HHS Office of Inspector General revealed the delays in a new report. (Reuters)
  • The White House is considering eight ideas to get infrastructure providers to adopt the National Institute of Standards and Technology cyber security framework. Suggestions came from the Commerce, Homeland Security and Treasury departments. The framework is still under development. It’s part of President Obama’s 2013 executive order. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Special Operations Command used social media data monitoring tools to track a money laundering scheme, NextGov reports. And the Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the social media data was helpful with one of its investigations last August. Steven Aftergood from the Federation of American Scientists says the Special Operations Command experimented with tools from about 12 different companies to track data. (NextGov)