Monday federal headlines – November 4, 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 FBI says the gunman accused of opening fire at Los Angeles International Airport had a handwritten letter that read of his intention to kill multiple TSA officers and to instill fear within the TSA ranks. Paul Ciancia is under armed guard as he recovers from four gunshot wounds. 39-year-old TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez was the only fatality in the LAX shooting. Three others were wounded. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union that TSA officers need to work better with local law enforcement to help prevent incidents like Friday’s shooting. McCaul says special TSA-VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) teams perform random baggage and security checks and should be used more. The American Federation of Government Employees Union represents 45,000 TSA employees. AFGE President J. David Cox says he would like TSA officers to be able to make arrests. According to CNN, Cox is not satisfied that TSA officers have to turn to local law enforcement when assaulted. Meanwhile, AFGE is asking their membership to consider changing their Facebook profile pictures this week in remembrance of Hernandez. AFGE’s Facebook post reads, “Rest in peace, brother.” (AFGE)
  • The Obama administration says a senior Democratic Senator asked the White House to shut down until it’s fixed. The answer was “no.” The Wall Street Journal reports, the request came from Sen. Dianne Feinstein. It went to Denis McDonough, the president’s chief of staff. He says administration officials believe it’s easier to fix the site if it’s kept running. McDonough said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had also considered taking it offline. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Obama administration only had four companies to choose from when it decided to go with CGI to build Bloomberg Government reports, that’s because Health and Human Services used an expedited bidding plan. It limited the competition to 16 vendors on a multiple award vehicle operated by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Only four of the companies bid. A former CMS procurement director says this may have cut nine months off the source selection process. But it took the administration a year and a half after the law was passed before it chose a vendor. (Bloomberg Government)
  • A NASA conference gets underway today after being nearly scuttled amid an international uproar. Organizers of the Kepler Science Conference at Ames Research Center initially told Chinese scientists to stay away. It turned out to be a misinterpretation of the rules but one NASA couldn’t fix quickly because of the government shutdown. In March, Chinese scientist Bo Jiang was caught trying to take a NASA laptop out of the country. The agency banned foreign nationals from visiting facilities. It then ordered a thorough review of foreign visitor policies. Once done, it lifted the moratorium but not everyone got word in time. Prominent scientists threatened to boycott the conference because of the perceived discrimination. (NASA)
  • A Navy commander sells secrets to a Southeast Asian contractor and cheats the government out of tens of millions of dollars. Court documents charge Navy Commander Michael Misiewicz with passing confidential information on ship routes in exchange for prostitutes and Lady Gaga tickets. The Navy commander and a government contractor, nicknamed Fat Leonard, allegedly diverted aircraft carriers and destroyers to Asian ports with lax oversight where the contractor could overcharge the Navy millions for fuel, food and collect money for tariffs fabricated using phony port authorities. A senior Navy investigator, accused of keeping Francis abreast of the investigation, is also charged. (Associated Press)
  • Some 47 million Americans are starting the week with reduced food stamp benefits. The Agriculture Department’s Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, or SNAP, applies to one in seven Americans. The cuts come because a boost enacted in 2009 has expired. Congress is debating a five-year agricultural bill. Both House and Senate versions maintain the cut and go further. Under current law, a family of four that was getting $668 per month is now getting $632. USA Today reports, New York and California have the most people affected, at a combined five million recipients. (USA Today)
  • The Defense Information Systems Agency closes two data centers as it marches down the consolidation path laid out by the Office of Management and Budget. On Nov. 1, DISA closed data centers in Dayton, Ohio, and Chambersburg, Pa. Functions at those centers were moved to other Defense Enterprise Computing Centers. The closures affected approximately 30 civilian employees. Some were reassigned to new positions within the department, others chose to retire. (Federal News Radio)
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology is taking it upon itself to review its cryptographic standards development process. NIST says recent news reports about leaked classified documents have caused concern about the security of NIST cryptographic standards and guidelines. So, the agency is compiling the many procedures involved in their development process. Once that’s done, NIST plans to invite public comment on the process. Based on the public comments and independent review, NIST says it will update their process as necessary to make sure it meets its own goals for openness and transparency. NIST says the ultimate goal is to provide the most secure, trustworthy guidance practicable. (NIST)