The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Amy Morris discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.
A data breach at the General Services Administration is putting more than 12,000 feds at risk of identity theft. The New York Times reports that an employee there accidentally sent names and Social Security numbers of the entire staff to a private e-mail address. The breach happened in September. GSA says the computer that received the information has been scrubbed clean. The agency is paying for credit monitoring and offering up to $25,000 dollars in ID theft insurance coverage.
OPM tries to clarify a proposed rule on background, or suitability, checks for senior government officials in public trust positions. The rule would implement an order by former President Bush that requires those officials to undergo periodic checks in order to keep their jobs. But OPM says its proposal issued last year created confusion about the scope of those checks. The agency has come out with a new proposal that, among other things, would set new requirements for people in sensitive federal jobs, including those with access to classified information.
The top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee is blasting what he says are plans by Democrats for a $1 trillion catch-all spending bill. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Ca) says House Democrats are in the final phases of molding a 12 bill omnibus and that they’re planning to bring it to the House floor this month during the lame-duck session. He’s sent a letter to appropriations chairman David Obey expressing strong opposition. Lewis also says that he’s instructed his staff not to engage in any negotiations for an omnibus.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates isn’t worried about the new split-party Congress. The Defense Department reports that the Defense Secretary is hopeful that lawmakers will support what he calls “efficiency initiatives.” You know them as budget cuts, although Gates says he is not cutting the defense budget, but is trying to make the overhead for Defense “leaner.” He spoke with reporters on his way to the Australia-U.S. meetings, and said that he’s also hopeful that the lame-duck Congress will pass a new arms reduction treaty and repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He says no matter what party lawmakers belong to, if they are interested in America’s military strength, they should embrace his plan.
The president signs an order that will change the way government classifies information. The directive requires agencies to review and justify markings for more than 100 kinds of controlled unclassified information. Leaders will need to tie each category and subcategory to a specific government-wide policy, law or regulation. The National Archives office of Information Security Oversight will need to approve the review.
The new Pentagon Cyber Command is thinking about going on the offensive. The Washington Post reports the command is looking for enough manuvering room to take the fight to the enemy. That could include shutting down enemy networks or hacking in to change code. But senior policymakers and lawyers for the administration aren’t so sure. The CIA says covert operations outside of battle are its responsibility, and the State Department worries about a diplomatic backlash.
More data to soldiers on the ground: that’s the goal of a new Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program. DARPA has launched a $20 million effort called Advanced Wireless Networks for the Soldier. NextGov reports, the project will use commercial radio technology from Raytheon’s BBN Technologies Division. The radios let soldiers automatically find and download information. DARPA is asking industry for proposals on how to turn the radios into computers that could be networked in field situations.
Not in my back yard. That’s what several several local jurisdiction in the Southwest United States are telling the Air Force. A plan to use 94,000 square miles of mountainous terrain for special operations flight training has riled four county commissioners and two city councils in New Mexico and Colorado. The Wall Street Journal reports, the Air Force wants to fly transport planes and Osprey til-rotor aircraft on low-flying, night time runs. Pilots would be under orders to avoid cities. The opposition worries supporters of Cannon Air Force Base, located in Eastern New Mexico.
The federal health care overhaul has provided millions of dollars in grants and tax credits for biotech firms in the DC region. The Washington Business Journal reports the Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project doled out a billion dollars. The maximum award was capped at five million per applicant. The program targets research for small and mid-sized biotech companies. Analysts predict the grants will provide a modest benefit to the firms, considering how expensive clinical trials are. Grants to biotech firms in Virgina added up to nearly $11 million. Grants to Maryland biotech firms were around $48 million. In DC, around $720,000.
A State Department passport specialist was curious about celebrities. Too curious, it turns out. Brook Reyna has admitted she looked into the confidential files of more than 500 famous Americans without authorization. The files contain photos and personal information. They’re protected by privacy laws. Reyna pleaded guilty in federal court in Concord, N.H., to lying to investigators. The files were those of actors, reality TV contestants, musicians, and athletes. Her peeking took place over a four-year period. Reyna is the tenth State Department employee to plead guilty in an investigation that started in 2008.
** Do we make learning too difficult? These days, learning may start in classrooms, but there are real opportunities to think about training in different ways. It’s the subject of the Federal News Radio book club discussion. Insights from somebody who has worked on education and training.
** And the first numbers are out on TSP automatic enrollment. We’ll get details