Wednesday federal headlines – October 2, 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.

  • The government enters day two in shutdown mode as the political stalemate continues. Lawmakers from both parties hinted the shutdown could last for weeks. Republican-backed bills to fund the national parks and the VA failed to pass. Military officials mulled cancellation of Army and Navy football games this weekend. And Bloomberg reports, Justice Department attorneys are asking judges to delay civil cases because the department only has enough staff to continue with criminal cases. (Federal News Radio)
  • Lawmakers from this region already have introduced legislation to restore federal employees’ pay at the end of the government shutdown. The bills cover all federal workers, whether they work or not during the shutdown. The White House estimates 800,000 federal workers are being furloughed. The Senate bill lacks GOP co-sponsors. The House bill has bipartisan support with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) signing on. (Senate)
  • House Republicans urge Pentagon leaders to reconsider furloughing 400,000 civilian employees. In a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, they say the Pay Our Military Act gives DoD the flexibility it needs to keep more of them working. Defense One reports, the letter was penned by Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon. The new law was passed and then signed by President Barack Obama yesterday. It ensures timely payment to troops, and civilians and contractors supporting them. McKeon says the text of the bill does not limit pay to only those civilians deemed excepted or essential during the shutdown. (Defense One)
  • Furloughed federal employees are volunteering to guide tourists around a shutdown Washington. Federal labor groups tell Reuters they’ll stand outside closed monuments and museums, not to picket or protest, but to help visitors find their way to non-federal attractions that are open. Visitors to national parks and landmarks throughout the country expressed disappointment and anger yesterday when they found themselves locked out of their destinations. (Reuters)
  • So many federal IT employees are on furlough, those left on duty will have a job on their hands when it comes to cybersecurity. ComputerWorld reports, several agencies have issued contingency plans for keeping their systems operating. Most will be in maintenance mode, with a special eye on cyber. VA will furlough 40 percent of its 8,000 IT workers. Others, like the Federal Trade Commission, will have in place only a skeletal staff of six people. Housing and Urban Development will have 13 on the job. The Social Security Administration is leaving 10 percent of its 3,000 IT staff in place. (ComputerWorld)
  • A new recent report from the Pentagon’s inspector general has detailed more than 700 quality control problems with the costly F-35 fighter jet. The IG faults both the F-35 program office and the Defense Contract Management Agency for not giving enough oversight. It says they lost control of contractor Lockheed Martin and several of its subcontractors. The problems center on how DoD applied a quality control system known as AS9100. Many of the problems relate to employee training and certification. They don’t necessarily result in a defect in the plane itself. But the IG says quality control issues could ultimately affect performance, reliability and cost. (DoD Inspector General)
  • The military will keep buying equipment, supplies and other items during the shutdown. A Pentagon spokesman tells Defense News, the department will spend money that was appropriated by Congress in prior years. The department plans to curtail contract announcements until after the shutdown ends. Many defense civilian employees, including those who would normally announce awards, are being furloughed. (Defense News)
  • Technical errors combined with heavy traffic are going to slow Tuesday’s launch of new online insurance exchanges. Reuters reports, 2.8 million people visited operated by Health and Human Services. Many got error or traffic overload messages or blank pages. 81,000 people phoned call centers. 60,000 requested online chat sessions. State-run exchanges also appeared problematic. Maryland officials delayed their launch by several hours. (Reuters)
  • President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the nation’s top energy regulator has withdrawn amid opposition from Republicans and at least one Democrat on a key Senate committee. Obama had tapped Ron Binz, a former Colorado energy regulator, to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Binz strongly backs renewable energy. Opponents said his views were outside the mainstream. (Associated Press)
  • Computer network security issues at Guantanamo Bay won’t stop proceedings against suspects in the 9/11 terror attacks. A military judge has decided to let pretrial hearings continue while the Pentagon works on the cybersecurity issues. Security fears had prompted Defense attorneys to stop using government email and servers for confidential legal work. They said some data disappeared. Emails mistakenly went to the prosecutors and their private legal research was subject to monitoring. The Pentagon has agreed to address the complaints. (Associated Press)