Friday federal headlines – August 30, 2013

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.

  • President Barack Obama is supposed to announce a 2014 federal pay raise by tomorrow. If the president does not tell Congress anything, then federal pay would go up to 1.3 percent, Gov Exec reports. That’s the amount dictated by a formula in existing law, and it’s higher than what Obama is expected to propose, which is likely to be just 1 percent. He could do it by executive order. Spending bills in Congress are silent on the pay raise except for civilians working for the Defense Department. They would get a 1 percent raise under a Senate bill. (GovExec)
  • Hope for a budget agreement shriveled a bit more yesterday following a conference between Republican Senators and White House staffers. Budget Chief Sylvia Burwell participated. Sen. Bob Corker (R- Tenn.) says the talks went nowhere. The two sides are still at loggerheads over both tax and spending policy. No more talks are scheduled. The impasse increases the likelihood of a continuing resolution come Oct. 1. It also boosts the odds of a government shutdown. Treasury has warned Congress, the government will reach its debt ceiling sometime in mid-October. (Associated Press)
  • The approaching launch of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges has prompted the Office of Personnel Management to issue a fact sheet. Acting OPM Director Elaine Kaplan tells agency chief human capital officers, federal employees will be mostly unaffected by the ACA. The big exception is Congress and congressional staff. They’re being kicked out of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan and will have to obtain coverage through an exchange. OPM itself also has a big job under ACA. It has to make sure each state’s exchange conforms to the requirement that it offers at least two multi-state insurance plans. (Federal News Radio)
  • The IRS says it’s now recognizing same-sex marriages for federal tax purposes. As long as a same-sex couple was married in a state with legalized gay marriage, the IRS recognizes the couple’s status regardless of where they live. That includes marriages occurring in Washington, D.C. The new policy lets individuals file original or amended returns as married, for prior tax years. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew underscored the change. He says it provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance. (Treasury)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department cannot deny disability benefits to the spouse of a lesbian veteran. A federal judge in Los Angeles says the federal code defining a spouse as someone of the opposite sex is unconstitutional, given the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. The VA rejected an application from Army veteran Tracey Cooper-Harris and her wife. They sought the additional money and benefits that married veterans receive. Cooper-Harris has multiple sclerosis. Her attorney says she should receive $150 more a month in disability payments. (Associated Press)
  • D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is mad at the Secret Service for what she calls an “organizational breakdown” during Wednesday’s commemoration of the March on Washington. Holmes Norton says the Secret Service failed to organize, prepare and coordinate. It resulted in long lines at security checkpoints. Holmes Norton says it left visitors frustrated and worse. With the heat and rain, she says more than 100 people needed first aid. Some had to be hospitalized. The Park Service normally oversees security on the National Mall. This was an exception because three presidents were speaking. (House)
  • Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says the intelligence community will start releasing annual numbers on the secret court orders and National Security Letters that authorize agencies to spy. Clapper says he is following President Barack Obama’s directive to declassify as much information as possible. But Clapper says agencies will not disclose details about how they use those documents or who they target. Former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked documents showing the NSA scoops up millions of U.S. emails mixed with those of terror suspects. (Office of the Director of National Intelligence)
  • Leaker-in-exile Edward Snowden has revealed one of the government’s most closely held secrets. He sent it to the Washington Post, which has splashed it on the front page. It’s the breakdown and analysis of the $52 billion intelligence budget. Among the revelations: the CIA gobbles up the biggest piece of the pie, at $14.7 billion. Both the CIA and the National Security Agency are stepping up their hacking into foreign computer networks. For all the spending, the intelligence community is unable to provide certain critical pieces of information to the president. (Washington Post)
  • The Federal Trade Commission says a cancer-detection lab is not doing enough to protect its patients’ online records. The complaint alleges Atlanta-based Lab MD’s lax cybersecurity resulted in the leak of Social Security numbers and birth dates. More than 9,000 consumers are thought to be at risk of identity theft. The allegations come as the federal government pushes the health care industry to swap paper for electronic records. It saves money but relies on private companies to invest in cybersecurity. The Health and Human Services inspector general in 2011 warned that the drive to e-records was being layered on top of a system that already has privacy problems. (Associated Press)
  • A former federal technology executive says agencies might soon need a policy for BYOA — bring your own attorney. Writing in InformationWeek, Hord Tipton says the rise in online crime and espionage means cybersecurity officials need a lot more legal knowledge and advice. And lawyers need to know more about cyber issues. Tipton is executive director of ISC Squared, a security training group. He’s the former CIO of the Interior Department. He says cyber conflicts and murky data privacy policies are creating an increasingly legalistic environment for federal tech managers. (InformationWeek)
  • The Navy says its training and testing could kill more than 300 whales and dolphins in waters off U.S. shores over the next five years. The service will release environmental impact statements today that estimate the potential damage to marine mammals. None of the deaths would be on purpose, but they would result from explosives going off underwater. The Navy tests equipment and trains sailors off the East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Southern California and Hawaii. The service plans to apply to the National Marine Fisheries Service for permits for its activities. Officials say sailors can’t develop critical skills without this training. (Associated Press)
  • The Air Force, Army and Defense Information Systems Agency have signed an information technology sharing agreement. Defense CIO Terry Takai says it will avoid $1 billion in future costs. She says the agencies will also get more network bandwidth and better security. The Army has been upgrading its network to use multi-protocol, label-switching routers, or MPLS. But because the force is shrinking, it has excess capacity. So it will share with the Air Force, which is also shrinking. The Army and DISA plan to build an MPLS network in the cloud. That’s part of a bigger plan called the Joint Information Environment. (Defense Department)