Monday federal headlines – Aug. 11, 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 agencies are failing to keep email safe from cyber criminals. The nonprofit Online Trust Alliance rated agencies on their email security practices. It gives just two components a passing grade. One is the Senate; the other is the House of Representatives. The alliance looked at the adoption of three email authentication standards across the top 50 federal websites, as well as banks, online retailers, social media and news sites. It says just 4 percent of the federal sites applied best practices. (Federal News Radio)
  • The new head of the Veterans Affairs Department visits the VA hospital that was ground zero in recent scandals over patient care. Secretary Robert McDonald met with veterans and staff when he toured the Phoenix facility. McDonald says the trip is the first of many visits to VA clinics over the next few months. He has vowed to change the agency’s culture and regain patients’ trust. After the visit, he says he is more encouraged than he had been and says “this is doable.” The Phoenix hospital has scheduled all primary-care appointments for vets who had been on waiting lists. It also has brought in mobile medical units from other states and plans to open a new clinic. The Veterans Affairs Department has hired an independent accreditor to review scheduling practices and compare the level of care at VA hospitals to other health care systems. (Associated Press)
  • The Air Force says it’s being proactive in protecting the environments around its bases. It points to a team of 32 at Eglin Air Force Base that just won a departmentwide award. The team restored more than 12,000 acres of long-leaf pine habitat. It removed invasive trees and invited federal fire experts to conduct experiments in its controlled environment. The Air Force says the team planned its activities using the service’s Environmental Management System. (Air Force)
  • The Obama administration is sending weapons to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic militants in Iraq. U.S. officials are not saying which agency is coordinating the effort, but they rule out the Pentagon. The CIA has taken the lead in past covert operations. But officials say the White House is close to approving plans for the Pentagon to arm the Kurds. The military is helping facilitate weapons deliveries now by providing logistic assistance and transportation. The United States had insisted on only selling arms to the Iraqi government in Baghdad before. (Associated Press)
  • American diplomats will remain on the ground in Iraq as the U.S. military launches airstrikes against Islamic militants. President Barack Obama says the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Irbil will stay open. The State Department has moved a limited number of staff from Irbil, however. A spokesperson says the move was made “out of an abundance of caution rather than any one specific threat.” Staffing at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad “remains the same.” (Associated Press)
  • The State Department has told families of U.S. Embassy staff in Liberia to leave because of the Ebola outbreak. The department says it made the decision after an assessment from its medical office. It says there’s a lack of routine health care services at major hospitals. The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden, says the next few weeks will be critical to ending the virus’ spread. (Associated Press)