Monday federal headlines – February 10, 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.

  • A year of turbulence for federal employees brought a membership gain for their largest union. The American Federation of Government Employees say its dues-paying membership reached nearly 285,000 at the end of last year. Union President J. David Cox says that’s the highest in decades. He says sequestration and the government shutdown make the union more appealing. Last week AFGE more than doubled its membership at the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Cox says AFGE is the fastest-growing union in the AFL-CIO. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Postal Service continues its downward spiral, announcing a $354 million loss over the last three months. That’s much better than previous quarters. The Postal Service credits cost-cutting combined with growth in package delivery. But Postmaster General Pat Donahoe rejects the idea that the agency has turned a corner. He says Congress has to pass a reform measure. A Senate panel last week approved a bill. It would end Saturday mail delivery, trim workers’ compensation and make permanent a temporary hike in the cost of a first-class stamp. (Federal News Radio)
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is preparing for more budget cuts in 2015. He promises across-the-board reductions. He says the trick is balancing them among the readiness, modernization and capabilities accounts. A 2012 agreement calls for $41 billion in cuts next year. Hagel says planners are working now with the Office of Management and Budget to complete their request to be included in the March 4 release. The downward trend in Defense Budget might reverse in 2016. Last week, the White House nixed the Navy’s plan to retire one of its 11 aircraft carriers. Sources tell Defense News the White House is planning to submit a DoD budget that raises spending by $36 billion. (Defense Department)
  • The Army warns soldiers, a scam website is masquerading as the official benefits website. The difference is in the URL. is not an official website. The site says the military has granted access to unclaimed benefits for active-duty soldiers. It asks for names and email addresses. Criminal Investigation Command says do not log on or respond to emails. It’s tricky because is a true benefits site. It’s run by the Army’s Retirement Services Office. (Defense Department)
  • A look at 1,000 military sexual assault cases show a record of random and inconsistent judgements. The Associated Press obtained the records through a freedom of information act request. Some seemingly strong cases are reduced to lesser charges. And many convicted of sex crimes never serve time in prison. Nearly two-thirds of 244 service members whose punishments were detailed in the records were not incarcerated. Instead they were fined, demoted, restricted to their bases or removed from the military. In more than 30 cases, a letter of reprimand was the only punishment. The Marine Corps is the most likely of the armed services to imprison offenders. The Air Force is most lenient. (Associated Press)
  • At least six intelligence workers have been outed accidentally by news organizations reporting on the National Security Agency. The media outlets also have posted government secrets by mistake. Glenn Greenwald, the columnist who first published information revealed by Edward Snowden, says the disclosures were minor errors made by technical staff. He says they were fixed quickly. None of the six NSA employees appeared to be working undercover. From the details published, the Associated Press found their home addresses and other personal details. (Associated Press)
  • Edward Snowden used common, automated software to copy data from the NSA’s networks. Intelligence officials tell the New York Times, Snowden set up a “web crawler” to do the work while he went about his duties at the agency’s location in Hawaii. That office lacked security upgrades that might have alerted the agency to an insider attack. Colleagues did challenge Snowden’s actions a few times, but believed him when he said he was backing up data, as a systems administrator often does. (New York Times)
  • The Justice Department will treat same-sex couples equally under the law. Attorney General Eric Holder issues a memo today. It means same-sex spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other. They should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly. They they have the same rights and privileges as other married federal prison inmates. Holder tells the Human Rights Campaign, same-sex couples will qualify for the benefits programs overseen by the department. Those include the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and benefits to surviving spouses of public safety officers injured or killed in the line of duty. (Human Rights Campaign)
  • TechAmerica wins the first battle in its lawsuit against the Information Technology Industry Council and three former employees. Sources tell Federal News Radio, the case will move into the discovery phase. Judge John Mott of the D.C. Superior Court did not rule on ITI’s motion to dismiss. Sources also say ITI Council returned more than 59,000 pages of electronic material and more than 11,000 pages of paper material TechAmerica alleges the three former senior executives took with them when they left. Trey Hodgkins, Pam Walker and Carol Henton formed a new group within the ITI called the IT Alliance for Public Sector. (Federal News Radio)