Thursday federal headlines – September 19, 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.

  • Most of the Washington Navy Yard in Southeast D.C. reopened at 6 a.m. for a regular workday. The Navy says Building 197, which houses the Sea Systems command, will remain closed. The base gym is also still closed. The Navy Yard has been mostly closed since Monday morning, when a Navy contractor employee opened fire and killed 12 people. The shooter was killed by police at the scene. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Navy Yard returns to “near normal” operations today. But there is plenty of unfinished business. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus talks about the next steps in the military security review process and what Navy Yard employees should be doing right now. (U.S. Navy)
  • The Pentagon will launch its own investigation into Monday’s deadly shooting incident at the Washington Navy Yard. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asks Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter to lead two reviews. One will look at physical security and access procedures at military installations. The other will examine the process for granting security clearances. Carter is supposed to coordinate his work with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of Management and Budget. (Defense Department)
  • The U.S. Capitol Police Board is reviewing the force’s response to the Navy Yard shootings. Chief Kim Dine requested it following reports that a supervisor told response teams that arrived within minutes of the shootings to stand down. The Navy Yard is less than three miles from the Capitol complex. Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer says if the reports are true, it would be an unbearable failure. The review team will report its findings within a month. (Associated Press)
  • Key senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees want answers about the Navy Yard shootings. They want to know how the contractor employee responsible for the mass murders obtained his security clearance. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) ask the Office of Personnel Management inspector general to look into the matter. They’re asking which agency did the shooter’s background check, or whether it was a contractor. They want to know whether anyone looked into clues that Aaron Alexis was potentially dangerous. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Management and Budget has issued guidance for what agencies can and cannot do in the event of a government shutdown. While downplaying the possibility, the White House is asking agencies to be prepared. In the event of a shutdown, agencies won’t be allowed to carry out routine operational or administrative activities having to do with contracts or grants. They will be allowed to launch new contracts or grants that address an emergency threatening life or property. Congress appears to be at a total impasse over a budget deal. The fiscal year expires a week from Monday. (Federal News Radio)
  • The GOP-controlled House could vote tomorrow on a bill to prevent a government shutdown. It could contain a measure to gut the Affordable Care Act but even top advocates of the strategy admit it has no chance of becoming law. GOP leaders say they don’t want a show- down. Instead, they say Republicans will try to attach a GOP wish list to a future bill to lift the debt ceiling. That measure could come to the House floor as early as next week. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned against a loaded bill. He says the government may have to default on its debts by mid-October if Congress fails to act. (Associated Press)
  • The Obama administration has launched a multi-department effort to protect data under the Affordable Care Act and to reassure citizens their health information is secure. The law is set to launch in October, when millions will need to send personal information to online exchanges to obtain health care insurance. A new 800-number will connect consumers to federal call centers, where they can report fraud or identity theft. The Obama administration is touting a new computer system to verity people’s identities. Top officials met at the White House yesterday to discuss the matter. (Associated Press)
  • The Senate has confirmed Office of Personnel Management Acting Director Elaine Kaplan to a federal judgeship. She will leave to join the Court of Federal Claims. That could leave the personnel agency with a power vacuum. President Barack Obama has nominated a former campaign director, Katherine Archuleta, to be the permanent head of OPM. The Senate has yet to schedule the vote. The deputy director position has been vacant for two years. (Senate)
  • The Homeland Security Department’s nominee to be the undersecretary in charge of its cybersecurity programs made it through the first part of her confirmation process with little problem. Suzanne Spaulding tells the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee her priorities are to continue to build on the relationships with the private sector. She also calls on Congress to make information sharing between the public and private sectors easier through liability protections. The committee didn’t vote on Spaulding’s nomination but is expected to in the coming weeks. (Senate Committee on Homeland Security)
  • A House Homeland Security subcommitee wants the Homeland Security Department to create a cyber workforce strategy to identify and fill existing gaps. The subcommittee also is pushing DHS to work more closely with the private sector to perform research and development of cyber tools to protect critical infrastructure systems. The subcommittee approved these two bills Wednesday. Both bills now go to the full committee for a vote. (House Committee on Homeland Security)
  • The top doctor for Green Berets and other elite Army units has told troops to stop taking the anti-malarial drug Mefloquine. It was developed by the Army in the 1970s. Since then, millions of military and civilian travelers have taken it. But it has been found to cause permanent brain damage in rare cases. The new ban goes further than guidance from top Pentagon health officials. They say the military is using the drug less frequently as others have become available. But it is still given to those who can’t take alternatives. (Associated Press)