Thursday morning federal headlines – May 31, 2012

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. T...

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.

  • The House passed several pieces of legislation to bolster security and information sharing. The Secure Borders Act gives the Homeland Security Department five years to gain what it calls operational control of the border with Mexico. The Weapons of Mass Destruction Intelligence and Information Sharing Act gives DHS a bigger role in sniffing out chemical, biological and nuclear threats. It requires coordination with state and local governments. A third bill creates interagency teams to battle cross-border crime. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Pentagon is taking its battle with Capitol Hill on the road. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter used a think tank forum to repeat his call for Congress to leave the Department of Defense budget alone. Carter said the budget is carefully balanced and if Congress adds something in the Pentagon doesn’t want, something else gets cut. Both the House and Senate have passed DoD authorization bills. Budget bills are still pending. One point of disagreement is the DoD’s plan to raise some TRICARE fees. Both houses of Congress reject that idea. (Federal News Radio)
  • An Office of Personnel Management contractor accidentally exposed thousands of federal retirees’ personal information. The OPM’s inspector general said contractor Vangent mailed 3,000 postcards with retirees’ Social Security numbers printed on the covers in October during the health benefits program open enrollment season. OPM employees did not follow protocol for reporting the breach. The IG said OPM needed to improve its procedures and employee training and consider providing free credit monitoring services to all victims. (OPM)
  • President Barack Obama is planning to veto a bill to fund military construction and veterans’ programs. The bill is widely popular in the House, which plans to vote on it today. It would freeze federal pay for another year. Moreover, the White House said the bill violates last summer’s budget deal. It would cut overall funding for Veterans Affairs operations by just 2 percent. That’s relatively good for the VA, but the White House said it would force Congress to make deep and unfair cuts to other agencies. (Federal News Radio)
  • Computer botnets can be as annoying as bad weather. But with botnets, you can do something about it. A partnership between federal agencies and nine non-profit groups has come out with a voluntary code of conduct to fight botnets. Botnets are networks of computers infected with a virus designed to spread using the Internet. The Industry Botnet Group was coordinated by the White House and the departments of Commerce and Homeland Security. It was formed in September. Topping the list of recommended practices: Share responsibility for safe computing. (Federal News Radio)
  • Not all heads are going to roll in the wake of the Las Vegas conference scandal. Public Buildings Service Deputy Commissioner David Foley has returned to work, a General Services Administration spokesman confirmed. Foley was one of the officials called before Congress to explain why his agency spent more than $800,000 on a Las Vegas conference. He can be seen on a video of the conference joking about who was going to pay for “the party that was held in the commissioner’s suite last night.” That commissioner, Robert Peck, was fired by GSA head Martha Johnson right before she turned in her own resignation. (Federal News Radio)
  • A bill to help ensure the safety of U.S. drug supplies has sailed through the House. The Food and Drug Administration had lobbied hard for the measure. It reauthorizes user-fee programs that help the agency pay for reviews of new medicines. It also gives the FDA flexibility so regulators can target the most problematic manufacturers, regardless of whether they are in the United States or abroad. The Senate passed a similar bill last week. The two chambers still have some differences to iron out in a conference committee before they can send the bill to the president. (Federal News Radio)
  • A contractor trade group is getting into the Big Data business. TechAmerica Foundation announced the leaders of a new commission to help the government deal with the issue. Big Data is a catch-all term referring to large amounts of collected data that requires analysis to make sense of. IBM’s Steve Mills and SAP’s Steve Lucas will chair the commission. Executives from Amazon, and Wyle will also be part of the leadership. The Obama administration recently announced a $200 million Big Data Research and Development Initiative. (TechAmerica)
  • The TSP board may be saying all is well, but lawmakers want to know more about the cyber attack that compromised more than 120,000 accounts. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is asking the FBI to explain why it waited so long to notify the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board about the attack. The feds found out about it last July but didn’t tell the board until last month. Collins also wants to know why the board waited until May to notify TSP participants who were affected. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Commerce Department has jumped into the washing machine wars. It is backing a Whirlpool Corporation claim of unfair competition from subsidized South Korean manufacturers. The Wall Street Journal reported Commerce still has to convince the U.S. International Trade Commission that Whirlpool’s business was endangered by the competition. That would let Commerce impose duties on washing machines made by Daewoo Electronics, Samsung and LG Electronics. All three companies denied they received government subsidies. Last month, the Trade Commission ruled against Commerce and Whirlpool in a similar complaint about refrigerators. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The first commercial space flight to reach the International Space Station is heading back to Earth. It plans to splash down in the Pacific Ocean around 11:45 this morning. Space-X launched the flight five days ago as a test run for NASA. It is the first private space shuttle to r-supply the station. It brought 1,300 pounds of science equipment, hardware and cargo to NASA astronauts. The flight marks a milestone in NASA’s plan to replace its space shuttle program with commercial carriers. The agency will hold a press conference this afternoon. (NASA)

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