Monday federal headlines – October 21, 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.

  • President Barack Obama will announce a fix to problems with at a Rose Garden event today. In a statement, The Health and Human Services Department says it is working around the clock on the health insurance exchange website. It says the web team is bringing in outside help. It is also monitoring the site to find and prioritize problems. HHS acknowledges users’ frustration. Some have had trouble creating accounts. Others have received confusing error messages. Republicans have snickered that a visit to the website is like a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles. (Health and Human Services)
  • Just in time for the holidays, the White House is reopening its doors to the public. Visitors are welcomed back to the gardens next weekend. Tours resume next month. They’ll be the first since March. The White House had canceled them, citing sequestration. There will be fewer tours than before, but a secret service spokesperson says they now have enough funding to supply security at least until mid-January. During the shutdown, First Lady Michelle Obama’s garden grew unruly. It was watered only as needed, not weeded. (White House)
  • Health IT professionals reveal some of their biggest concerns in keeping networks and personal health records secure. The SANS Institute conducted their inaugural health care information security survey. 373 health care IT professionals say negligent colleagues and a lack of investment in the end user about security issues are the main reasons for health information at risk. Despite these concerns, organizations are accepting the risks for the convenience of mobile and cloud technologies in delivering care to patients. According to the survey, the biggest driver for information security is regulatory compliance. Full survey results will be released during the SANS HealthCare Cyber Security Summit in San Francisco this week. (SANS Institute)
  • Documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden show the NSA swept up 70 million French phone records over a 30-day period. The report published in the French newspaper, Le Monde, found that when certain numbers were used, the conversations were automatically recorded. The surveillance operation also swept up text messages based on key words according to what Le Monde reported. The report was based on records from Dec. 10 to Jan. 7. The French government has summoned the U.S. ambassador to explain why the Americans spied on one of their closest allies. Similar programs have been revealed in Britain and Germany. (Associated Press)
  • 25 new federal executives, judges and board members are finding their way around their offices. The Senate confirmed them last week in between negotiations on the shutdown. Beth Cobert is now the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. She comes with nearly three decades of experience as a business consultant at McKinsey. The Senate also confirmed Carol Waller Pope for a new five-year term at the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Debra Hersman also gets a vote of confidence. She’ll remain head of the National Transportation Safety Board. Stephen Preston is officially general counsel at the Defense Department. Scott Dahl is the new inspector general at Labor. Carol Kennedy is packing her bags for Japan. She’s now the ambassador. And Julia Frifield, the former chief-of-staff to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), is now the assistant secretary of state for Legislative Affairs. (Federal News Radio)
  • Military leaders and lawmakers are remembering Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.). The longest-serving House Republican died Friday at the age of 82. Young chaired the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. He funnelled hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks to the Tampa Bay area and built the local defense industry. In a statement, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki says Young spent many Thanksgivings and Christmas Eves walking the halls of military hospitals, and Shinseki says, “embodying Abraham Lincoln’s charge ‘to care for those who shall have borne the battle and for their families.'” Young’s office says he was at Walter Reed Medical Center, where he had been for nearly two weeks because of chronic back problems. (Associated Press)
  • The biggest destroyer built for the Navy is ready to go into the water. The christening of this first-in-class warship was canceled a week ago because of the government shutdown. But plans call for the Zumwalt to be moved to dry dock in Maine and floated without fanfare. The Zumwalt will remain at dockside for final outfitting. It’s the first new class of destroyer launched at Bath Iron Works since 1989. The destroyer is named for the late Adm. Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt. The ship will cost more than $3.5 billion. That’s more than three times the cost of previous destroyers. (Associated Press)
  • The TechAmerica Foundation forecasts some key upcoming procurements. DISA is expected to release the request for proposals for its $427 million Enterprise Storage Services II contract in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014. The Army plans on issuing the RFP for its IT Enterprise Services III contract in the second quarter of 2014. That could be worth $25 billion over nine years. The Navy is scheduled to release an RFP for ashore and afloat networks and information engineering services in the second quarter of 2014 that could be worth $100 million. And the Air Force is preparing a $525 million contract for communications and technical support services in the first quarter of this year. Executive Editor Jason Miller details more from TechAmerica’s latest IT and acquisition forecast in Inside the Reporter’s Notebook. (Federal News Radio)