Wednesday federal headlines – October 9, 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 House has passed a bill to give immediate pay to federal employees working during the shutdown. That’s about 1.3 million people. The bill was introduced by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee. But White House officials reiterated their opposition to what they call a piecemeal approach to re-opening the government. In a statement, the White House says President Obama will veto the measure should the Senate go along. Last weekend, the House passed a measure to give back pay to all federal workers once the shutdown is over. But the measure has stalled in the Senate. (Federal News Radio)
  • Nearly 4 million veterans will stop receiving disability compensation from the VA if the government shutdown lasts until late October. That’s what VA Secretary Eric Shinseki plans to tell the House Veterans Affairs Committee later today. He estimates 500,000 veterans or their surviving spouses will stop getting pension payments. In all, about $6 billion in benefits would be unavailable. VA officials have already said their processing of disability claims has slowed since the shutdown began Oct. 1. Shinseki says health care delivery at VA hospitals has not been affected. (Associated Press)
  • House Republicans are drafting a bill to let the Pentagon pay death benefits to survivors of those killed in combat. The Hill reports, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale ruled the death payments were not a paid allowance. Therefore, he says, they don’t fall under the Pay Our Military Act, enacted just after the government shutdown started. But members of the House and Senate both voiced outrage at that interpretation. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) sends a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, calling the interpretation careless. The payments are $100,000 each, usually paid within a day or two of the death. (The Hill Newspaper)
  • The federal government enters day nine of the partial shutdown. President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner spend Tuesday trading barbs as the standoff continues. Neither side shows signs of backing down. But they hint at a possible compromise over a short term bill to avoid federal default. CIA Director John Brennan recalls an unspecified number of furloughed employees, citing national security concerns. Christopher Braden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also recalls some furloughed staff. CDC is responding to a chicken salmonella outbreak. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama will nominate Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen to lead the central bank. The president will make the announcement later today. If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen would become the first woman to head a major central bank anywhere in the world. She would replace Ben Bernanke when he steps down in January. Yellen has been a key architect of the Fed’s low-interest-rate policy. The economist Mark Zandi says, in choosing Yellen, Obama is signaling to the world that the country’s monetary policy remains stable, even as the United States grows closer to a default. (Associated Press)
  • A unit of the Energy Department will have to spend at least $3 million to clean up a mess that began with violations of federal personnel rules. The Energy Department inspector general says Bonneville Power Administration manipulated the process used to rate job applicants. It also wrongly excluded veterans from certain jobs. The IG says Bonneville, based in the Pacific Northwest, regularly dismissed directives from Washington. Now the Energy Department and the Office of Personnel Management are reviewing case files of approximately 22,000 job applicants. Bonneville employs about one-fifth of the department’s total federal workforce. (Energy Department)
  • The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee says the panel is very close to introducing cybersecurity legislation. The Hill reports, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) says he is working with committee leader Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Chambliss says Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance programs interrupted the Senate’s work on the bill. But he says, if it should pass, it would resemble CISPA. That’s the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act passed by the House in April. It’s meant to encourage companies to tighten their cyber defenses and share threat information with the government. (The Hill Newspaper)
  • Microsoft is making good on its promise to reward hackers that find security flaws in its software. The company has given its first $100,000 bounty to cybersecurity researcher James Forshaw, who works for London-based Context Information Security. Microsoft says Forshaw came up with a new exploitation technique. The details are a secret until Microsoft can successfully address it. It says Forshaw’s discovery will help Microsoft develop defenses against entire classes of cyber attacks. (Reuters)
  • Microsoft wants to up its presence in the hotly contested federal cloud computing market. It launches a dedicated, government-only cloud. That means the facilities are located in the continental United States and staffed by U.S. citizens. Only data and applications of federal, state and local agencies will be housed there. In a blog post, Microsoft’s cloud chief, Satya Nardella, says the Windows Azure U.S. Government Cloud has already received federal security approval. It was granted provisional authority to operate under the General Services Administration’s FedRAMP program. Nardella says federal customers are among the most demanding. (Microsoft blog)
  • The Pentagon has hired a Capitol Hill attorney to close Guantanamo Bay prison. Paul Lewis begins the job of Special Envoy next month. He will work with the State Department to transfer the 164 remaining detainees to other countries. He’ll also oversee efforts to transfer third-country nationals held by the United States in Afghanistan. Lewis oversaw Guantanamo-related issues as a lawyer for the House Armed Services Committee. Before that, he served in the Defense Department’s office of the general counsel. (Defense Department)