Tuesday federal headlines – October 8, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The government begins day eight of the shutdown. On Capitol Hill, no progress on talks to end it. The Senate fails to vote on a bill to give eventual back pay to furloughed federal employees. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) says the measure is premature. Majority Leader Harry Reid may schedule a voice vote. Senate Democrats plan a vote on their own bill to raise the debt ceiling by a cool trillion dollars. The National Labor Relations Board stops accepting online documents and halts election hearings. Contractors learn the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will run out of money Thursday. (Federal News Radio)
  • Back from his Asian trip, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel questioned service chiefs on how the federal government shutdown is affecting operations. They told him that even though most civilians have returned to work, several critical programs are still in limbo. The department lacks the authority to pay the $100,000 death benefit to survivors of service members killed in action. Those checks are normally issued within three days of the death. Intelligence support and unit training are also curtailed by the shutdown. Training and maintenance were already cut back because of the sequestration cuts earlier this year. (Defense Department)
  • Three out of four White House advisers, assistants, butlers and landscapers are on furlough, just like the rest of government. At one entrance to the West Wing, a wall that normally displays the day’s newspaper clippings is still showing last week’s headlines. The cafeteria is offering fewer meal options. And senior aides are doing their assistants’ work, scheduling meetings, sending press announcements and getting visitors cleared by Social Security. (Associated Press)
  • In the first week of the shutdown, federal employees have filed more than 10,000 claims for unemployment benefits in the District and 16,000 in Maryland. That’s a major uptick for both offices. The D.C. Department of Employment Services usually gets 600 unemployment claims per week. The first checks are being sent this week. But if federal employees receive back pay at the end of the shutdown, they will have to pay back the unemployment benefits. Virginia has not provide an update on claims. (Associated Press)
  • Beth Cobert’s bid to become the White House deputy director for management is a step closer to reality. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the nomination late yesterday on a voice vote. Now it heads to the full Senate. Cobert, a McKinsey & Co. executive, had a favorable hearing last week. Committee leaders from both parties praised her qualifications for the number two job at the Office of Management and Budget. (Senate)
  • A glossy new $100 bill is going into circulation today. Its high-tech features are aimed at keeping counterfeiters at bay. Among them are a disappearing Liberty Bell in an ink well, and a blue 3D security ribbon that has images that move in the opposite direction from the way the bill is being tilted. (U.S. Currency)
  • A Senate panel is questioning why a Social Security judge awarded so many disability benefits in the years leading up to his retirement. In a report, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee accuses Judge David Daugherty of West Virginia of pocketing money from a lawyer in exchange for approving his clients. Daugherty refused to testify at a hearing yesterday. But it wasn’t all about him. Chairman Tom Carper questioned the agency’s lack of consistency in approving benefits. He says in his state of Delaware, judges reject an unusually high percentage of cases, and the backlog runs 460 days long. Social Security Administration officials did not attend, citing the shutdown. (Associated Press)
  • The ACLU says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is blocking an agent from publishing a book about the botched gun-tracking program, “Fast and Furious”. The ACLU says the Bureau is worried that the book would hurt morale and weaken the agency’s relationships with other law enforcement groups. The ACLU says Special Agent John Dodson is a whistleblower. It accuses ATF of violating his First Amendment rights. An official tells the Associated Press, ATF is considering letting Dodson publish his book. But he couldn’t earn any profit from it. Federal law generally bans employees from outside work based on their federal duties. (Associated Press)
  • Federal authorities plan to question a long-sought terrorist suspect aboard a naval vessel rather than sending him to Guantanamo Bay or a secret CIA black site for interrogation. A team of U.S. investigators from the military, intelligence agencies and the Justice Department is heading to the Mediterranean, where the USS San Antonio is. They’ll question Abu Anas al-Libi on board. In doing so, the Obama Administration is employing a tactic that would let it prosecute al- Libi in civilian court. U.S. forces captured al-Libi in a raid Saturday in Libya. He is wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. (Associated Press)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department unilaterally ended a tussle between itself and the Small Business Administration. The issue is which agency decides protests over the socioeconomic status of contractors. That is, whether a company is a service-disabled veteran- owned business, a veteran-owned small business, or neither. VA says it will keep those decisions for itself. It published a final rule in the federal register. A bill to force VA to give the authority back to the SBA has not made it out of the Veterans Affairs or Small Business committees yet. (Federal News Radio)
  • Amazon has prevailed over IBM in a cloud computing decision by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. IBM had protested a $600 million cloud computing contract the CIA had awarded to Amazon Cloud Services. In an earlier ruling, the Government Accountability Office found Amazon to have the superior offer. But it recommended the CIA reopen bidding. Amazon then filed a complaint over the GAO ruling. IBM now says it will appeal the latest decision, rendered by Judge Thomas Wheeler. Separately, Microsoft says it will launch a cloud computing facility dedicated to government customers. It will be located in the United States and only accept data from agencies. It already has federal security approval. (Reuters)
  • Technical flaws are holding back the National Security Agency from deploying its gigantic new data center in Utah. The Wall Street Journal reports, for more than a year the facility has been hit by a series of fires and explosions caused by electrical arcing. In some instances, the jolts destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. An NSA spokeswoman says the problem has been mitigated through testing. The Army Corps of Engineers oversees construction. A spokesman there says the contractor is fixing the problem. But that account is disputed by an independent Corps investigator. The data center covers a million square feet and has so far cost $1.4 billion.(Wall Street Journal)
  • A federal grand jury has indicted 13 members of a key Internet hacking group for a wide-ranging series of cyber attacks. The defendants are part of Anonymous. They are accused of targeting governments, trade associations, financial institutions and other entities — any site that goes against the Anonymous philosophy of making all information free for everyone, without regard for copyright laws or national security concerns. (Associated Press)