Monday federal headlines – April 21, 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 cybersecurity officials have flagged in a review of websites vulnerable to the Heartbleed computer bug. People with accounts on the insurance enrollment website are being told to change their passwords. Senior administration officials say the warning is made out of an abundance of caution. There’s no sign the website has been compromised. The government continues to review federal websites. Cyber officials at the Homeland Security Department say their network has detected hackers trying to exploit Heartbleed. They say they have blocked attempts in many cases. Heartbleed affects sites using the Open SSL encryption technology. Many government sites do not use it. (Associated Press)
  • Director of National Intelligence James Clapper announced that the intelligence community thinks it’s time to relax the rules that ban commercial satellite companies from selling high-quality images. The announcement follows the Senate adding language to the annual IC authorization bill, urging agencies to ease up on commercial companies by allowing them to sell their product. The restrictions were first put in place to protect imagery from potential security threats. Currently, the government can buy imagery that’s better than .5 meter resolution, meaning one pixel in an image is .5 meter on the ground. One commercial company is already asking permission to sell images twice as precise, but the IC isn’t saying how far its leniency will go. (Federal News Radio)
  • The State Department will build a new training center at Fort Pickett, Va. The state’s Congressional delegation says it’s a done deal. Courses will prepare diplomats and other government employees for assignments at dangerous posts around the globe. The Foreign Affairs Security Training Center will consolidate training now done at facilities nationwide. The State Department estimates construction at $461 million, of which some has been appropriated. The 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, underscored the need for better training. The Virginia Army National Guard base, southwest of Richmond, beat out sites in Maryland, Georgia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. (Senate)
  • Farms that have cases of a deadly pig virus now have to report the outbreaks, the Agriculture Department says. Farmers have struggled to control the virus since it first showed up last May because its cause is unknown. The USDA said it will commit $5 million to fight the disease. Porcine epidemic diarrhea, or PED, is believed to be from China. Newborn piglets are most at risk and often die from dehydration after contracting PED. Vice President of Science and Technology for the National Pork Board Dr. Paul Sundberg says this is a necessary step to gather information and increase disease control. (Associated Press)
  • The family of a Marine who killed himself after returning from Iraq is continuing its lawsuit against the government. The Federal Appeals Court in Cincinnati says the widow of Cameron Anestis has grounds to sue. Tiffany Anestis says her husband sought a mental health evaluation and treatment at two Veterans Affairs facilities in Kentucky. They turned him away. For what she calls negligence, Anestis seeks $22.5 million in damages. A spokesman for the VA declined to comment. (Associated Press)
  • The Navy refuses to let dozens of transportation workers onto bases following a fatal shooting last month. The service says it has turned away nearly 50 people with government-issued Transportation Worker Identification Credentials because they have criminal records. The new rules say no one with a felony in the past 10 years, or certain misdemeanors in the past five years, can get onto a base. An armed gunman killed a sailor at Naval Station Norfolk last month. The Navy says the assailant, Jeffrey Savage, was a truck driver with a felony record. He had a TWIC card, issued by the Transportation Security Administration. (Associated Press)
  • The Defense Department removed a shortcut from Federal Acquisition Regulation that allowed contracting officers to make purchases of $3,000 or less, without finding out if they’re getting the best price. Schedule holders were not happy with the new decision, saying it will add another layer of bureacracy to the acquisition process. In a Federal News Radio exclusive, DoD director of procurement and acquisition policy Dick Ginman said the decision comes from seeing DoD contracting trainees skip the bartering process using the loophole. Ginman insists that removing the shortcut is not adding workload, but simply encouraging market competition and smart buying. (Federal News Radio)