Wednesday federal headlines – November 6, 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.

  • was again front and center on Capitol Hill. Marilyn Tavenner, the director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, says the crippled website is now able to handle 17,000 users per hour. She wouldn’t tell lawmakers how many citizens have signed up for health care insurance using it. When the site is fixed, Tavenner says Health and Human Services will launch a media blitz to talk it up. Meantime, security concerns bedevil the site. A North Carolina man logged on and got the personal information of someone from South Carolina. President Obama says federal procurement rules are partly to blame for the launch failure. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Homeland Security Department’s embattled acting inspector general is once again under the gun. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) tells Federal Times, Charles Edwards needs to resign. She says her oversight committee has documented instances of inappropriate behavior. McCaskill says IG reports are tempered by what she calls inappropriate influence. The subcommittee’s top Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), agrees. He promises hearings. Edwards has expressed confidence he’ll be cleared of any wrongdoing. President Obama has yet to nominate a permanent inspector general. (Federal Times)
  • Military pay is on the table as the Defense Department tries to realign its strategy in light of budget constraints. In a speech yesterday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the budget cuts known as sequestration “too fast, too abrupt and too irresponsible.” He outlined six focus areas. He says the military will play a lesser role in foreign policy in the coming years. But, he says it must continue to invest in far-reaching technologies. Hagel also referred to institutional reforms, including plans to cut headquarters staff. (Federal News Radio)
  • More members of Congress are backing changes to military law to stem the tide of sexual assault incidents. A bipartisan group has introduced a relatively modest bill to protect victims in pre-trial hearings from aggressive lines of questioning. The lawmakers say the so-called Article 32 hearings end up putting victims on trial and deterring others from coming forward to report assaults. Some members are pushing for a greater overhaul of military law, including stripping commanders of the ability to overturn guilty convictions. (Sen. Barbara Boxer)
  • Maybe it was the shutdown, but fewer than expected federal employees filed for retirement last month. The Office of Personnel Management says 7,500 feds applied. The relatively low number let the agency chip away at its backlog. It now stands at 14,000 cases, down from 41,000 in February. OPM expects new retirement numbers to stay low before a swell in January. The retirement services division kept plugging away during the shutdown. It does not rely on annual appropriations. (Federal News Radio)
  • Lawmakers want to change overtime rules for federal agents in light of allegations that Homeland Security employees are abusing the program. The National Border Patrol Council says Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R- Utah) will introduce a pay reform bill. The union says Congress should pass it quickly. But in the meantime, it says, the Border Patrol needs to use Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime, or AUO, to make sure the border remains secure 24-7. (GovExec)
  • Car sharing a la ZipCar could be coming to your agency. The General Services Administration is asking industry for advice on alternatives to leasing or buying to supply car fleets to agencies. A request for information cites a need for alternatives to taxicabs or rental cars for federal employees who need transportation intermittently. GSA plans an industry day Nov. 18 to hear from companies with experience in car sharing. The agency also plans to launch car sharing tests in Washington, Boston, New York and Chicago. (GSA)