Thursday federal headlines – January 9, 2014

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 memorial honoring Oklahoma City bombing victims is getting a refresh. The national memorial and museum is launching a $7 million renovation. When complete in November, it will include evidence from the FBI as well as videos of victims’ family members. The Executive Director, Kari Watkins, says she hopes to attract a younger generation of visitors who don’t remember the destruction of the federal building nearly 20 years ago. 168 people, including 19 children, died in the bombing. (ABC News)
  • The Census Bureau wants to revolutionize the way it takes the pulse of America, but it needs more money first. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker says the bureau already has the technology to make the 2020 census more cost-efficient. But it needs funds to test the gear. Pritzker spoke at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where she tweeted that she got a look at high-tech gadgets like wearable baby monitors on the showroom floor. She also visited an incubator for local start-up companies. (Nextgov)
  • President Obama’s pick to be the next Homeland Security inspector general promises to give the office a fresh start. John Roth told a Senate committee that he would work to restore morale of the IG staff. And he would knock down a list of 1,200 IG recommendations the department has never implemented. DHS has been operating without a confirmed IG for nearly three years. The acting Inspector General, Charles Edwards, was under charges of misconduct. He left last month. Senators from both parties expressed support for Roth. He’s currently head of criminal investigations at the FDA. (Federal News Radio)
  • Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin is retiring. The Air Force commander who overturned a sexual assault conviction says he cannot make a decision now without public scrutiny. He says that hurts the military justice system. He’ll leave the service at the end of the month. Franklin’s actions last year outraged Congress. It has changed military law stripping commanders of much of their power in sexual assault cases. Franklin heads the third Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama has tapped a long-time aide for deputy Labor secretary. The President was a freshman senator when he first hired Chris Lu to be his legislative director. Lu moved with the President to the White House serving as cabinet secretary. Their relationship stretches back decades to their time at Harvard Law School. When Lu retired last year Obama hinted that he would resurface in government. Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris plans to return to Cornell University next week. (Washington Post)
  • The big 2014 spending bill contains a sliver of relief for military retirees. One provision would ensure the formula for future pension growth remains untouched. But that would only apply to injured or disabled retirees. All others would face a smaller inflation calculator in their pensions until they reach age 62. The trim was included in the bipartisan authorization bill enacted late last year. The $1.1 trillion spending bill is not quite complete. Lawmakers are working to meet next week’s deadline, when the continuing resolution expires. (Associated Press)
  • At least eight researchers or policy experts have withdrawn from the annual RSA Security conference. They’re miffed over allegations that RSA included a backdoor in one of its encryption products so the National Security Agency could get in. The company denies the allegation. The flaw was cited in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. RSA told customers last summer not to use the algorithm. Among those pulling out are researchers from F-Secure, Google and the ACLU. The conference web site lists nearly 500 speakers. Many federal cyber officials attend the highly-regarded conference each year. It takes place next month in San Francisco. (Associated Press)
  • If hackers break into your agency’s network and access users’ personal information, what do you do? The answer depends on your agency. The Government Accountability Office looked at eight agencies. It found wildly different responses at each. None did a good job of evaluating security incidents and learning from them. One of the agencies, the Army, sometimes offers credit monitoring to victims, but it’s not clear when. All are supposed to alert the Homeland Security Department within an hour of learning about a breach. The agencies say it’s not so helpful and they are reluctant to ask DHS’ computer emergency response team for help. The auditors say the Office of Management and Budget needs to revise its guidance to agencies. (GAO)
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is making a rare visit to an Air Force nuclear missile base. He says he wants to boost morale among the men and women responsible for the nation’s Minuteman 3 missiles. The visit comes a month after the firing of Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, the ICBM commander. He committed misconduct during an official trip to Europe. Among other things, he blurted out that missile operators have the worst morale in the Air Force. Hagel will fly by helicopter to a Minuteman launch control center in Nebraska from Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. (Associated Press)