Friday federal headlines – October 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.

  • Now that the federal government has reopened, officials are assessing the damage of the 16-day shutdown. Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale says furloughs cost the Pentagon at least $600 million. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus reminds employees: it’s not business as usual. The military still operates under sequestration, and he says there could be another shutdown in January when the current spending bill expires. Agency heads welcomed their staff back to work, acknowledging the emotional toll the shutdown had taken on the workforce. Attorney General Eric Holder greeted Justice Department employees with a memo saying they were all essential. And there was some lightheartedness. At the EPA, furloughed employees learned their colleagues who stayed on the job had watered the plants and cleaned out the refrigerators. The oldest food found? A 1997 can of soup. (Associated Press)
  • Furloughed federal employees who received unemployment benefits during the government shutdown will have to return those benefits. So far, about 1,700 furloughed workers have received benefits from D.C.’s Department of Employment services. Lisa Maria Mallory, the director of that office, tells our sister station, WTOP, it will notify those employees who accessed the money, and those who did not, that they need to pay the money back. Federal workers will have about 60 days to refund the benefits. Payment plans of up to six months are also available. (WTOP)
  • The Social Security Administration has its payroll office on overdrive. It wants to get back pay into employees’ hands as soon as possible. In an all-staff memo, officials say employees will receive initial payments by Wednesday. That will cover salary owed for the first week of October. The National Treasury Employees Union wants more agencies to do the same, rather than making employees wait for their next paycheck. For many that comes on Oct. 25. (SSA)
  • The nation’s largest workplace fundraiser is hoping federal employees will open their wallets now that they’re back to work and back to being paid. The Combined Federal Campaign was scheduled to run from Sept. 1 through Dec. 15. Several agencies suspended CFC activities during the 16-day shutdown. The Defense Department says it is resuming CFC collections. Officials tell the Federal Times, they hope the shutdown won’t have much of an impact and that people are eager to resume normal activities. (Federal Times)
  • The government shutdown delays final cybersecurity guidelines for nuclear power plants and other critical infrastructure providers. The National Institutes of Standards and Technology deadline to submit guidance for cybersecurity framework was Oct. 10. Cyber experts tells FierceGovernment IT the missed deadline is unlikely to be a problem. In late September, NIST told Federal News Radio the document was essentially finished. The framework came about through President Barack Obama’s February executive order on cybersecurity. It embodies the administration’s view that private sector infrastructure operators are critical to the nation’s well-being and should live up to a minimal level of cybersecurity practices. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama’s pick of a former Pentagon lawyer to head the Homeland Security Department has surprised many. Unlike past secretaries, Jeh Johnson is not a national figure. His selection suggests the White House wants the department to focus more on security than other missions like immigration. If confirmed by the Senate, Johnson would replace Janet Napolitano, who has already left. As a top military lawyer, Johnson handled the end of the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy and pushed to try terrorism suspects in military commissions rather than civilian courts. He also played a role in increasing the use of unmanned drone strikes in overseas conflicts. (Federal News Radio)
  • Former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden says he did not give any secret documents to Moscow. He says Chinese intelligence officials did not receive them either. Snowden tells the New York Times he gave journalists all the NSA data that he had when he was in Hong Kong, before he sought asylum in Russia. Snowden says he doesn’t have any copies himself. He tells the Times that he is a whistleblower. He’s wanted on espionage charges here in the United States. His revelations have led to public debate about the scope of NSA spy activities. Legislation is pending on Capitol Hill to limit the agency’s authority to snoop. (Associated Press)
  • IBM scientists have developed a new mobile authentication security technology based on a radio standard. It’s known as near-field communication, or NFC, and enables so-called two-factor authentication to secure mobile transactions, such as accessing an Intranet or private cloud. Two-factor authentication is already common when using a computer. Think password and verification code. IBM scientists now say they can apply the same concept using a personal identification number and a contactless smartcard like an employer-issued identity badge. The IBM technology is based on end-to-end encryption between the smartcard and the server using the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Advanced Encryption Standard scheme. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Pentagon Inspector General says Boeing cheated the Defense Department out of billions of dollars. Four times in the past five years, the IG found Boeing collected excessive or unjustified payments on defense contracts. The latest audits show Boeing charged the Army for new helicopter parts while installing used ones. While used parts were allowed in some circumstances, the July IG report obtained by Bloomberg News found the company overcharged the Army by as much as $16 million by exaggerating how many new ones were required while installing refurbished equipment salvaged from old aircrafts. A Boeing spokesperson told Bloomberg his company disagrees with the IG’s conclusions and says Boeing is fully compliant with all government contract policies and guidance. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee. He plans hearings to examine the Pentagon’s spending later this year. (Bloomberg)
  • The Justice Department is bringing fresh charges against four former Blackwater security contractors related to a 2007 deadly shooting in Baghdad. A new grand jury indicted the four men on several counts of voluntary manslaughter on Thursday. This case was reinstated by the federal appeals court in 2011 after it found the previous judge had wrongly dismissed the case. The current judge has given the Justice Department until Monday to decide what to do with this case. In 2007, Blackwater contractors were working as a diplomatic security detail for U.S. diplomats. They stand accused again of opening fire on a busy street. 17 Iraqi civilians died in that incident, including women and children. (WTOP)