Wednesday federal headlines – October 30, 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.

  • Federal retirees find out today how much more money they’ll see in their pension checks. Economists predict it will be about 1.5 percent. That would make it one of the smallest on record since automatic increases in cost-of-living adjustments began in 1975. The COLA impacts veterans and those who receive disability assistance or social security — in all more than one-fifth of the country. (Associated Press)
  • House and Senate negotiators are meeting today to see if they can come up with an alternative to sequestration. They don’t have hopes of a grand bargain, but a modest one. It would not address tax increases or entitlement programs. Democrats want to ease cuts to domestic programs like Head Start preschools, education grants to local schools and infrastructure projects. Republicans are especially worried about cuts to the Pentagon. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama speaks on in Boston this afternoon. He’ll try to keep expectations for the health insurance exchange portal low by saying the Massachusetts health care system got off to a slow start too. Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is testifying on Capitol Hill today. Medicare Chief Marilyn Tavenner had her turn yesterday. She said she was sorry the site “has not worked as well as it should.” Health and Human Services says it replaced its virtual database with a high-capacity physical one for better processing of account registrants. It’s doubled the number of servers, optimized software configurations and made other upgrades. But Reuters is reporting the data hub experienced an outage late last night — the second this week. The contractor, Verizon, says it’s doing maintenance on the system. (Associated Press)
  • A House bill could make military death payments a permanent benefit, even during a government shutdown. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) are introducing the bill. Payments would no longer depend upon annual appropriations from Congress. The Pentagon suspended payments during the recent shutdown, forcing a national outcry. A private foundation offered to fund the payments until the shutdown ended. (House)
  • The House Armed Services Committee is asking its vice chairman and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) to take a look at the Defense Department’s acquisition system. Thornberry will sort through 2,000 pages of acquisition regulations. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon says it’s part of a long term reform effort. He says Thornberry must find some kind of meaningful reform as DoD struggles with ongoing budget cuts and sequestration. (House Armed Services Committee)
  • Everyone does it. National Intelligence Director James Clapper told Congress spying on foreign leaders is a two-way street. European allies are guilty of it too. The head of the National Security Agency Gen. Keith Alexander said it was the Europeans, not the U.S., who did a surveillance sweep on phone records overseas. Reuters is reporting, Chinese officials say they’ll ramp up information security amid allegations that the National Security Agency is spying on European allies. (Associated Press/Reuters)
  • President Barack Obama met with a handful of corporate leaders for a personal chat on cybersecurity. Attendees came from the IT, energy and financial worlds. They included CEOs of Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Intel, Bank of America, Visa and Mastercard. The National Institute of Standards and Technology released a cybersecurity framework last week. It’s voluntary. Now the government has to convince industry to adopt it. The public has 45 days to comment. (White House)