Thursday federal headlines – September 12, 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 federal workforce really is getting smaller. It’s now the same size as it was in 2009. The Partnership for Public Service compiled the government data. The group says federal hiring declined last year, continuing a years-long trend. The candidates who get the jobs tend to be younger than the people already working in the office. They are also more likely to have a master’s degree or Ph.D. The data shows racial disparities within the workforce haven’t changed dramatically despite a presidential directive to make agencies more diverse and inclusive. (Federal News Radio)
  • House Republican leaders have delayed a vote on a continuing resolution bill because of opposition from the more conservative wing of the party. The bill is designed to temporarily fund the government at 2013 spending levels after the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1. But the bill has a complicated mechanism related to funding the Affordable Care Act. Tea Party conservatives don’t think it is strong enough to guarantee defunding of health care reform. The bill was pulled by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who engineered it. (Associated Press)
  • Congress members and their families won’t get a picnic on the White House lawn this year. First it was postponed. Now it’s been canceled altogether. The White House called off the annual bash in the midst of debate over U.S. involvement in the conflict in Syria. Instead, the White House Office of Legislative Affairs has offered a consolation prize of sorts. It says lawmakers can bring their families to the White House holiday ball later this year. The picnic has been the rare event that gives all lawmakers the chance to hob-nob with the president. (Associated Press)
  • Senators gave the Homeland Security Department a mixed grade, and a list of things to do better. Both were delivered during a hearing commemorating the 9/11 terrorist attacks that led to the department’s creation. Lawmakers praised the department’s response to the Boston Marathon bombings and recent natural disasters. On the flip side, Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) says DHS is having trouble measuring whether its grants actually have made the nation safer from terrorist attacks or just boosted local law enforcement. He adds that the department struggles to secure the border and to protect its own computer networks from cyber threats. (Senate)
  • A top research official at the Homeland Security Department is leaving. Tara O’Toole has been undersecretary of Science and Technology for five years. Sources tell Federal News Radio her last day will be Sept. 23. Deputy Undersecretary Dan Gerstein will act in her place. During O’Toole’s tenure, Congress has put the Science and Technology budget on a roller coaster. It fell by $200 million in fiscal 2012, only to bound back this year. For 2014, the White House has requested $856 million, emphasizing research and development. (Federal News Radio)
  • Military leaders are sending a clear signal to the politicians. We can carry out American security and foreign policy needs now. But not if big budget cuts keep coming. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says the ships stationed in the Mediterranean are ready to carry out strikes against Syria if called on. He says that level of readiness and fast response won’t be available if another sequestration round occurs. Army officials say they might have to trim back to eight ready brigades out of 32. (Associated Press)
  • The Navy is receiving more reports of sexual assault among its ranks, and officials say that’s a good thing. They say the number of assaults reported has risen about 50 percent in the past year, showing more victims feel comfortable coming to authorities. Like all military branches, the Navy is under pressure to show it is taking the crime seriously. It has changed the way it sells alcohol on base. and ramped up an awareness campaign to encourage people to speak up. The service says it will end the fiscal year with about 1,100 reports of sexual assault. The Pentagon received less than 3,000 sexual assault reports last year across the entire military but estimated the true number of incidents at 26,000. (Associated Press)
  • The National Park Service could almost be called a mini Education Department. It’s launching a new website for teachers that will provide lesson plans and resources from parks throughout the country. Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis will unveil the new site today at a middle school in Hyattsville, Md. He plans to take part in a social studies class as students travel online to the Grand Canyon. In New York City, the Park Service and the City Department of Education opened a new high school in lower Manhattan. The Stephen T. Mather Building Arts and Craftsmanship High School is devoted to teaching construction trades needed to preserve historic structures. (Associated Press)
  • A key technology launching Oct. 1 to help Americans buy health insurance is a go. Reuters reports officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reassured lawmakers at a House hearing, their new data hub can protect Americans’ personal information from hackers. CMS received IT security authorization last week. The hub will send people’s personal information to various federal agencies, like the IRS, to verify their identities so they can get insurance. The inspector general has not yet verified the hub’s security. (Reuters)
  • The GSA inspector general has looked at the agency’s mobile computing and found three problems. A new IG report says GSA needs to develop more complete standards for mobile application security, privacy and development. Second, it found the chief information officer hasn’t addressed the risks of brand-name solicitations when buying devices. Third, the IG says the GSA needs to document its process for assessing mobile devices. Not doing so raises the risk of what the inspector general calls knowledge loss due to personnel disruptions. (GSA)
  • The General Services Administration has extended the deadline bidding on its OASIS services contract vehicle. The Sept. 17 deadline has been moved to Oct. 10. OASIS stands for One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services. The multiple-award, governmentwide acquisition contract is worth potentially $60 billion. But the solicitation has run into protests from small companies who say it doesn’t give them a fair shake. GSA settled directly with one protester. The other is awaiting a decision from the Government Accountability Office. (FedBizOpps)