Tuesday federal headlines – October 1, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The federal government heads into partial shutdown mode this morning, following last night’s failure of Congress to agree on a budget resolution. The point of contention was not spending levels for 2014. It was policy regarding the Affordable Care Act, which the Republican-controlled House vote to delay for one year. Employees must go into work this morning. Later, about 800,000 feds will be furloughed. First they’ll have to conduct an orderly closure of their offices. Some agency websites will go dark. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Personnel Management has published a detailed question-and-answer guide for the furlough that’s about to hit close to a million federal employees. It explains: “excepted” employees are those who must work even during a furlough. Their jobs typically protect health and safety. But not all emergency employees are necessarily excepted. Political appointees, whether Senate-confirmed or not, are not subject to furlough, and they can’t be put on non-duty status. Unlike everyone else, they’ll get paid during the federal shutdown. (OPM)
  • The FAA will furlough nearly 3,000 safety inspectors. That’s according to the union that represents them. Administrator Michael Huerta confirm the furloughs. But FAA officials wouldn’t confirm the union’s number. The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists says the inspectors make sure airlines maintain their planes safely. They visit domestic and foreign hangars to do their jobs. Mike Perrone, the union’s national president, says he is outraged the FAA would downplay the importance of what the safety inspectors do. (Associated Press)
  • President Barack Obama says troops will get their paychecks on time during the shutdown. Congress has passed a bill exempting military pay. In a video message to troops, the president says he will sign it into law. He tells service members that those in uniform will remain on normal duty, noting threats to national security have not changed. He says those in harm’s way will have what they need to serve in their missions. The president also had words for defense civilian employees. To those who face more furloughs on top of those they already had this summer, Obama says he will keep working to get Congress to reopen the government. (Associated Press)
  • Expect more trains and busses around midday. Both the MARC and the MTA are increasing service in the early afternoon in anticipation that many federal employees will head home. Most feds who are furloughed because of the shutdown have to come to work to receive formal notice and close down their activities. The Housing and Urban Development Department said it will close its offices at 1:30 p.m. Other agencies expect most employees to be gone by midday, but haven’t set a specific time. (WTOP)
  • A Senate panel approved a key cybersecurity pick just hours before a government shutdown. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee reported out the nomination of Suzanne Spaulding. The president has tapped her to be the permanent Homeland Security undersecretary for national protection and programs. She now serves in an acting capacity. As such, she is responsible for securing critical infrastructure, federal facilities and advancing identity management initiatives. Spaulding also has worked on the Hill for the intelligence committees. She was also an attorney for the CIA. Her nomination now goes to the full Senate. (DHS)
  • The Navy has hired a contractor to repair the Navy Yard building that was the scene of a shooting rampage two weeks ago. The gunman killed a dozen co-workers before being killed by police at The Naval Sea Systems Command’s headquarter building 197. The Navy says the building suffered extensive widespread damage. The service is paying CH2M Hill Constructors to make safety-related repairs, assess damage and develop design concepts. Navy leaders say they do not know what they will do with the building in the long run. The contract is worth $6.4 million. (Navy)
  • The Marine Corps commandant has fired two generals. Gen. John Amos found the two had failed to take adequate force protection measures for Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. The British-run airfield was attacked by Taliban fighters a year ago. Two Marines were killed, and six Harrier fighter jets worth $200 million were destroyed. Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant agreed to retire. Gurganus was the top commander of Marines at the base, and Sturdevant was in charge of air operations. Taliban fighters cut through a wire fence below an observation tower that was left unmanned. (Associated Press)
  • The Postal Service has defaulted once again on its payments for future retirees. The struggling agency says it will not pay the required $5.6 billion to pre-fund health care costs. It marks the third time the Postal Service has punted on the payment. Last year, it chalked up nearly $16 billion in losses. Two-thirds of that came from failing to pay its debts to the Treasury. The Postal Service is the only agency required to pre-pay for retirees health care. It is asking Congress to change the law to alleviate the burden. It also wants to break away from the federal system and offer its own health care plan. (Reuters)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department has published a field guide to the shutdown for veterans. It says medical facilities will remain fully open, as will military sexual trauma counseling and other health-care services. Benefit claims processing and payments will continue through late October. If the shutdown lingers, however, work could be suspended because of a lack of funds. VA call centers for education and consumer affairs and the Inspector General hotline are all turned off. The Board of Veterans Appeals will not make decisions. Open-records requests won’t be processed. Most job applicants will have to wait until after the shutdown. (VA)
  • Health insurance exchanges are up and running, despite the controversy on Capitol Hill over them. A government shutdown does not impact the online marketplaces because the funding does not come from general appropriations. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tells reporters at a media preview, nothing like this has ever existed before. Observers are predicting bugs and setbacks. Applying for coverage is neither quick nor simple. Officials expect most Americans to browse the site now and buy closer to Jan. 1, when coverage would begin. (Associated Press)
  • A botnet infecting nearly two million computers has been hit hard by the good guys. ZeroAccess is one of the largest known botnets. Criminals use it for various frauds to the tune of tens of millions of dollars per year. Cybersecurity vendor Symantec found a way to disconnect 25 percent of the machines controlled by ZeroAccess. Computerworld reports, researchers were able to exploit a design weakness in the peer-to-peer architecture of the botnet. Before the cyber thieves could patch the flaw, Symantec performed a procedure called sinkholing. That prevented the owners from regaining control of the infected machines. (ComputerWorld)

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