Wednesday federal headlines – September 18, 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.

  • For the second day following Monday’s shooting incident, the Washington Navy Yard is closed to all but mission essential personnel. The Navy is asking everyone else to telework. The visitor control center at O & 11 St. is open to normal operations. But only DoD CAC cards and other government IDs will be admitted. The 9 & O St. gates are open for foot and car traffic. All other gates are still closed. Parking areas open at 9 a.m. for people needing to retrieve their cars. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Navy’s access control procedures are in the spotlight following release of a Defense Inspector General report. It shows the Navy tried to save money on a system that ended up giving felons unfettered access to military facilities. Under congressional pressure because of Monday’s Navy Yard shootings, the IG released the 56-page report yesterday. The IG recommends the Navy abandon its so-called Rapidgate, designed to ease entry for occasional contractor visitors to installations. Auditors found the system didn’t meet federal standards. Monday’s shooter, Aaron Alexis, had been cleared by a higher level system than Rapidgate. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal prosecutors have charged a Navy commander, a Naval criminal investigator and a long-time defense contractor in a bribery scheme. They say the three conspired to gain millions in international port contracts. Leonard Francis is CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia. His company has held ‘husbanding’ contracts for Navy ships at ports worldwide for 25 years. Prosecutors say he bribed Commander Michael Misiewicz of Northern Command and Naval Criminal Investigative Services Agent John Beliveau, paying for trips, prostitutes and gifts. In exchange, they allegedly gave him information that let him overcharge on the contracts. (Associated Press)
  • President Barack Obama has ordered a review of security clearance policies for employees and contractors following the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. White House spokesman Jay Carney says the Office of Management and Budget will examine standards across all federal agencies. Law enforcement officials say Navy contractor Aaron Alexis had a secret level clearance. He used it to enter the Navy Yard, where he killed 12 people and wounded several more. The Pentagon and the Navy are doing additional security reviews. Separately, the Director of National Intelligence has begun its own review in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. (Associated Press)
  • A secret court has reauthorized the National Security Agency’s phone records collection program for another three months. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Claire Eagan based her decision on the fact that no phone company had challenged the government’s request for information. Eagan asked that her opinion be made public, given the widespread interest in the NSA’s surveillance programs. The names of the phone companies are redacted in both the opinion and order. (Associated Press)
  • The people who watch the money in federal agencies say they don’t have enough money to do their jobs. A new survey of inspectors general finds their number one worry is the budget for their own offices. IGs say sequestration budget cuts forced furloughs and hiring freezes. That means less manpower to do audits and other oversight activities. IGs also say they lack enough IT support to fully do their jobs. The Association of Government Accountants, and Kearney and Company conducted the survey. (Federal News Radio)
  • When it comes to federal tax receipts, you get what you pay for. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration says collections from delinquent taxpayers dropped last year for the second year in a row. TIGTA says that’s partly because of budget cuts and personnel reductions at the IRS. The IG found enforcement revenue fell by $2 billion in 2011 and $5 billion in 2012. Some 8,000 people have left the IRS in the last three years. Plus, the agency is opening up delinquency investigations faster than it’s closing them. (Associated Press)
  • A new senate bill would force the Defense Department to improve its bookkeeping or face the consequences. It was introduced by Sen. Tom Coburn (R- Okla.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). The Pentagon bill sets a deadline of 2018 for the Pentagon to produce a clean financial audit. If it doesn’t, the armed services would be barred from funding new weapons systems. The bill also stops Defense agencies from buying commercial information technology that takes longer than three years to install. Coburn complains, DoD furloughed people over the summer while wasting money it can’t fully account for. (Senate)
  • When it becomes available for sale Friday, the newest smart phone will have a security feature likely to please federal users. The iPhone 5S will have a built- in fingerprint reader for access control. The four-digit access code will still be there, but only as backup. Positioned as part of the home button, the fingerprint reader will be able to recognize up to five fingers, so people can use it with either hand or give access to trusted co-workers or family members. Apple says the reader operates below the skin, so fake rubber fingerprints won’t work. Growing numbers of federal employees are using Android, iOS and Blackberry smart phones for daily work. (Apple)
  • Microsoft has released an emergency fix for Internet Explorer after hackers launched what the company calls “extremely limited, targeted attacks.” The workaround tool addresses a weakness in the way Internet Explorer accesses something in memory. It lets attackers execute code remotely and gain a user’s access rights. As such, IT professionals and others with administrative privileges are at greatest risk. Reuters reports state-sponsored hacking groups pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for these types of weaknesses. Whenever Microsoft releases a fix, it runs the risk that cyber criminals will try to reverse-engineer it and make the problem worse. (Reuters)