Thursday federal headlines – July 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.

  • Army officials will defend an expensive and partially functional system today in the Senate. The troubled Distributed Common Ground System is likely to come up in the confirmation hearing for Gen. John Campbell. He is President Obama’s pick to lead forces in Afghanistan. In other hearings, Campbell has said the system, known as DCGS-A, does what it’s supposed to — namely, integrate data from numerous sources to give soldiers a clear view of the battlespace. The Army has spent $4 billion on DCGS-A over 10 years, but it’s hard to use and crashes a lot. It’s been the subject of numerous reports and audits. Some Army units have turned to a commercial integration software package called Palantir. They’ve purchased it over the objections of Army brass. (Associated Press)
  • House members release emails showing IRS officials may have communicated with instant messages that weren’t archived. Republicans have been after the IRS for the loss of two years worth of emails from computer crashes. The emails come from the tax exempt organization, which was found to have discriminated against conservative groups in the two years before the 2012 election. The Wall Street Journal reports, the emails released this week show former tax exempt official Lois Lerner inquiring whether instant messages were saved. When the IT official replied they were not, Lerner sent a one-word reply: Perfect. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The House passes two bills to push interoperable communications in the Homeland Security Department. The first bill establishes a definition of the term interoperable communications, and it gives the department 120 days from enactment to establish an improvement strategy. A second bill would formalize a working group within DHS to figure out how to use social media in times of disaster. The panel would include both government and private sector people. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) sponsored the social media bill. She points out how Twitter spread the news that Boston Police had captured the Boston Marathon bombers. (Federal News Radio)
  • House Republicans move to block new Fish and Wildlife rules on the sale of ivory. Members of the Appropriations Committee say the rules interfere with legitimate trade in old ivory items, such as musical instruments or antiques. They include a block on the rules in the Interior Department funding bill. Fish and Wildlife Service officials say the rules are needed to help stop poaching of elephants and rhinoceros. They say it’s difficult to tell old ivory from new ivory derived from poaching. The rules went into effect in February. They’ll stay in place unless the House measure eventually becomes law. (Associated Press)
  • Some conservatives and religious leaders are pressuring President Barack Obama to create a loophole in an executive order that bars federal contractors from discriminating against gay employees. The groups want the President to exempt religious organizations. Advocates for gay rights say they’ll pull their support if that happens. The White House says the executive order is still being drafted. It’s been nearly a month since Obama announced he would sign it. By one estimate, the order would protect about 14 million contractors whose employers do not have such anti-discrimination policies and who live in states where there are no such laws on the books. (Associated Press)
  • Julian Castro is leaving San Antonio and coming to Southwest D.C. The Senate has confirmed the three-term mayor to lead the Housing and Urban Development Department. Castro will replace Shaun Donovan as HUD secretary. Donovan is awaiting confirmation as Office of Management and Budget director. The Senate also voted to confirm William Adams as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Adams has served as president of Colby College in Maine since 2000. Now he will head an agency that finances cultural programs. Leon Rodriguez was sworn in as director of Citizenship and Immigration Services. He comes from the Health and Human Services Department, where he served as director of the office of civil rights. (Associated Press)
  • Chinese hackers broke into the Office of Personnel Management’s computer networks earlier this year. The New York Times reports, they appear to have wanted files on applicants for top-secret security clearances. The hackers breached some databases before being detected by cyber authorities. The Homeland Security Department confirms the attack happened back in March. It says it has not identified any loss of personally identifiable information. Officials say they see attempted attacks on government servers nearly daily. Rarely do those attempts succeed however. (New York Times)
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the military’s focus on nuclear issues has “drifted” a bit during the land wars of the last decade. But he’s hopeful that two reviews of nuclear operations will suggest ways to shore up the forces. He addressed nuclear submariners stationed at Kings Bay, Georgia, in the first of a three-stop tour through the South. Today he is at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He will speak with airmen there about the F-35. The Pentagon ordered the fleet grounded following a fire last month. Hagel then goes on to the Army’s Fort Rucker in Alabama. (Associated Press)