Monday federal headlines – September 30, 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.

  • The Congressional impasse continued over the weekend with still no budget bill Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Lawmakers have until midnight tonight to come up with a bill the president will sign. Otherwise a government shutdown caused by a lapse in appropriations will occur. Early Sunday, the House revised its bill. It replaced a ban on spending for the Affordable Care Act with a measure to delay implementation of the law for a year. The House continuing resolution would fund the government until Dec. 15. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that’s unacceptable. The battled continued throughout Sunday morning on the talk shows. (Associated Press)
  • If there’s no agreement to prevent a shutdown, federal employees will still need to report to work Tuesday. That’s when they’ll do one of two things. Those whose jobs are essential to the safety of life or property will keep working. Everyone else will stay just long enough to close down their activities, then go home. No one will be paid until Congress passes a budget and the president signs it. So-called excepted employees who worked will be paid then. But Congress will have to approve separately a bill to pay furloughed workers for their time off. The Obama administration has already briefed federal employee unions on shutdown plans. (Federal News Radio)
  • Bill Bransford, a top federal labor and employment lawyer and fierce advocate for federal employees, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was a partner at Shaw, Bransford & Roth for 30 years. Besides his law practice, Bransford served as general counsel for several managers’ associations including the Senior Executives Association. Bransford and his law partner, Debra Roth, have hosted the biweekly show FedTalk on Federal News Radio since the station’s founding more than a decade ago. He was a regular guest here on the Federal Drive, commenting on landmark agency-employee dispute cases. Bransford was 66. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Agriculture Department says just a half-percent of schools have dropped its new, healthier lunch program. That’s 524 schools to be exact, out of about 100,000. The Department introduced the new standards last year. They’ve been met with grumbling from some school administrators who say children don’t like the healthier options and some conservatives who say the government shouldn’t be telling people what to eat in the first place. But USDA says the vast majority of schools (80 percent) have met the requirements with no problems. Most of the ones who dropped the program and gave up federal funding gave no explanation for their decision.(Associated Press)
  • Legislation to let the Food and Drug Administration regulate compounding pharmacies has sailed through the House. Under it, makers of so-called “gray market” drugs could voluntarily register with the FDA. Critics of the bill say it’s not strong enough, but it addresses a gap in the agency’s authority to track drugs. The measure comes nearly a year after a meningitis outbreak killed 64 people. The bacteria was traced to contaminated drugs from a Massachusetts compounding company. It has since closed. The Senate is working on similar legislation. (Associated Press)
  • The octopi, turtles, snakes and fish are moving out of the Commerce Department’s headquarters building. Today is the last day visitors can visit the National Aquarium in the basement of the Herbert Hoover building, spanning the block between Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues NW. That’s because the building is about to undergo major renovations. The funky display has been there since 1932. Many of the animals are headed to the National Aquarium’s larger and more glamorous sister facility in Baltimore. The non-profit group that runs it says it hopes to find another location in the District. It hired an architectural firm to help. (WTOP)
  • When President Obama was talking on the phone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, top U.S. military leaders had already been briefed on Iran hacking of Navy computers. The Wall Street Journal reports, U.S. officials say Iran has been able to penetrate an unclassified network hosting email and the Navy’s intranet. Officials say the attacks were carried out by Iran government hackers or those working on behalf of it. If the allegations are true, it would mark the deepest penetration into U.S. military cyberspace yet by Iran. The country has previously targeted banks and energy companies in the United States. The Journal’s sources say the Navy officials don’t believe any valuable information was taken in the latest series of attacks. (Wall Street Journal)
  • A one-time fugitive is headed to trial on charges of tricking those who thought they were helping Navy vets out of a combined $100 million. The man calls himself Bobby Thompson. Authorities say he is Harvard-trained lawyer and former military intelligence officer John Donald Cody. He is charged with defrauding people in 41 states who donated to the well-known U.S. Navy Veterans Association based in Tampa. Before his capture last year, U.S. Marshals and the IRS had spent 25 years looking for Cody. They considered the case cold until one Marshal googled Cody and found a likeness to Thompson. (Huffington Post)
  • The number two officer in charge of U.S. nuclear forces has been suspended from duty. Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina is suspected of using counterfeit gambling chips at a casino in Western Iowa. He has not been arrested or charged. But his boss, Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, has recommended that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reassign Giardina. Meantime he is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The suspension took place earlier this month, but was not immediately disclosed by Strategic Command. Giardina is a career submarine officer. Before joining Strategic Command he was deputy commander and chief of staff at U.S. Pacific Fleet. (Associated Press)
  • The National Security Agency is hiring its first-ever civil liberties and privacy officer. It’s a completely new role. According to the job description, the NSA wants someone who can make sure civil liberties and privacy protections are baked into the agency’s operations, technologies, tradecraft and policies. The person would spend plenty of time on Capitol Hill explaining the NSA’s surveillance programs. (NSA)
  • The Homeland Security Department has made its first set of large business awards under the Eagle II contract. Fifteen vendors got spots, out of 87 who applied. The awards are under the unrestricted portion of the technology-focused multiple award contract. DHS has made others under the small business set-aside portion. Allied Technology, BAE, IBM and Serco are among the winners. (Federal News Radio)