Wednesday federal headlines – February 5, 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.

  • Federal offices in the D.C. region are open today. Emergency personnel must come to work. Other employees can take unscheduled leave or telework with their supervisors’ approval. Those who choose to come in to work face a slick, icy commute. (Federal News Radio)
  • Another agency plans buyouts. The Broadcasting Board of Governors pays employees up to $25,000 as a cash bonus. It’s open to all employees. They have to quit work by the end of the month. The agency also offers early retirement. BBG says it is adjusting to a challenging fiscal climate and rapid technology changes. Just 34 employees took a buyout last year. Other agencies offering buyouts and early retirement include the EPA, Social Security Administration and the Office of Personnel Management. (Broadcasting Board of Governors)
  • The Congressional Budget Office’s latest economic forecast has sparked more partisan debate than usual. That’s because it says several million American workers will cut back their hours on the job or leave the workforce entirely because of the Affordable Care Act. CBO says doing do allows them to remain eligible for health care insurance subsidies. That’s just one of several factors offsetting the number of people who return to the workforce over the next several years. Supporters of Obamacare, including the White House, say the CBO report proves people will have more flexibility in their lives, thanks to the health care overhaul. Critics say the report proves the law is a job-killer. (Associated Press)
  • The Health and Human Services Department focuses on pockets of uninsured Americans in the final weeks of its health insurance enrollment blitz. It pinpoints 25 communities, starting with Dallas, Houston and Miami. Officials use spreadsheets to define enrollment tactics. The numbers help determine local sign-up events and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ appearances. The data also guides the placement of TV ads aimed at younger people. Those will start airing as the Winter Olympics open. (Associated Press)
  • “Schizophrenic” is how one critic describes the Obama Administration’s marijuana policy. Congress demands to know where the White House stands on pot as states move to decriminalize it. Office of National Drug Control Policy deputy Director Michael Botticelli tells a House panel, the administration still opposes legalizing marijuana. The Drug Enforcement Agency labels it a top-tier illegal drug. But President Barack Obama tells the media pot is no more dangerous than alcohol. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) says the government has gone from “just say no,” to “just say maybe.” (Associated Press)
  • The Obama administration will create seven regional climate hubs to help what it says are the effects of climate change. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announces the new hubs today. The hubs will be clearing houses for information and outreach to those affected by extreme weather. They’ll he housed at existing USDA offices. Staff will help farmers and rural towns deal with problems like droughts and wildfires. The goal is to synchronize the federal government’s preparation and resources with what other entities, such as universities, tribal communities and state governments, are doing to prepare for shifting temperatures. (Associated Press)
  • While Congress examines data breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and other stores, one senator calls for more attention at home. Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) releases a “best of” list of cybersecurity mistakes at federal agencies. Some highlights: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission stored sensitive cybersecurity details on an unprotected shared drive. The Energy Department failed to update software and hackers took advantage of that. IRS employees used obvious passwords like the word “password.” (Senate)
  • The Edward Snowden leaks have affected national defense as much as the intelligence community. That’s the assessment of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn tells the House Intelligence Committee, he assumes Snowden stole every DoD document he accessed. Flynn says many of the documents concern armed services matters, and that has caused DoD officials to review all events and exercises around the world. Flynn’s assessment was echoed by National Intelligence Director James Clapper. Committee Chairman Mike Rogers says he believes Russia is working with Snowden, and not merely giving him asylum. (Associated Press)
  • A new case of test cheating has broken out in the armed services. This time it’s the Navy. Officials are investigating allegations that sailors training to be nuclear propulsion instructors cheated on written exams. The estimated 30 sailors involved teach submarine and carrier crews how to operate the reactors that power the vessels. The nuclear propulsion school is in Charlestown, S.C. Adm. John Richardson directs the Navy’s program. He says at least one instructor-in-training came forward with reports that fellow sailors shared test questions. The allegations come as the Air Force is mired in a case involving nearly 100 nuclear missile launch control officers. They are also accused of cheating on written tests. (Associated Press)