Thursday federal headlines – November 21, 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.

  • Jeh Johnson cleared a key Senate committee vote en route to becoming the next Secretary of Homeland Security. He was approved by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on a voice vote. No full Senate vote has been scheduled yet. If confirmed, Johnson would become the fourth DHS secretary. Johnson has vowed that if confirmed, his first order of business would be filling the department’s many vacant senior management positions. (Associated Press)
  • The transportation security officer killed earlier this month by a gunman at Los Angeles International Airport died within five minutes of being shot. That’s according to the LA country coroner’s office. It released the information following reports that Officer Gerardo Hernandez lay on the floor for a half hour before paramedics were allowed into the building to tend to him. Police wouldn’t clear the area even though the gunman was already in custody. Those facts fueled speculation that with earlier medical help, Hernandez might have been saved. (Associated Press)
  • Federal labor unions are asking Congress to overturn a court ruling they say infringes on employees’ due-process rights. The American Federation of Government Employees made the plea in a Senate hearing about the designation of certain jobs as “national- security sensitive.” The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently ruled in favor of the Pentagon. It had argued that a cafeteria worker and an accountant had sensitive positions and therefore no right to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has introduced a bill to put those positions under MSPB review. (NTEU/AFGE)
  • Management of financial records at the Defense Department is getting renewed attention from Congress, thanks to an investigation by Reuters. Retired Finance and Accounting Service employees tell the news wire, for years they doctored ledgers. They fudged numbers to balance the books when they lacked data from the military services. In addition, the wire reports, the department has backlogged more than $500 billion worth of unaudited contracts. A spokesperson says Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), head of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, considers improving the department’s financial management a top priority. (Reuters)
  • America’s nuclear missiles are guarded and operated by a workforce that feels exhausted, unrewarded and unappreciated. That’s the conclusion of a secret study by Rand Corporation that the Air Force commissioned late last year. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the draft report. Rand found higher-than-average levels of misconduct and marital troubles in the missile staff. Court martial rates in 2011 and 2012 were at twice the levels of the rest of the Air Force. The study launched after Air Force brass had to take a series of disciplinary actions within the nuclear mission. (Associated Press)
  • The Patent and Trademark Office has inked a deal for a permanent home in Silicon Valley. The city of San Jose will give the office free space in its city hall for two years. PTO says it will bring more than 80 patent judges and reviewers to the world capital of patent filers. The expansion had been planned for some time. The office postponed the move because of sequestration. In the meantime, a handful of PTO staff have been working out of borrowed rooms in a nearby suburb. (Associated Press)
  • Cloud computing facilities used by the federal government are becoming a big target for China-based cyber espionage. That’s according to authors of the latest annual U.S.-China Economic and Security Review. Bloomberg reports commissioners preparing the report found no evidence of cloud hacking. But Commission Chairman William Reinsch says the issue bears watching. He says agencies buying cloud services need to be vigilant about who actually owns and operates private clouds and where the data ends up. (Bloomberg Government)