The Government News You Need In 120 Seconds – March 28

The stories that impact your life… your government world in 120-seconds…

0328 NEWSCAST by cdorobek

  • The House is once again at a standstill on the highway bill, just days before federal funding would be shut off and Congress skips town for its two-week recess. Politico reports that Republicans pulled a bill that would have provided for a 60-day extension of highway programs yesterday — the second time in as many days that Republicans have had to abandon plans to extend highway funding. The move came after Democrats said they would withhold support for a short-term bill until Republicans agree to also pass a longer-term bill that will serve as their negotiating position in a few weeks when they conference the bill with the Senate. The big issue now is timing. House Republicans want to leave town Thursday afternoon for a two-week recess.
  • A standoff over nominees is undercutting key agencies. Politico reports Senate Republicans are refusing to approve at least seven other financial regulator nominees in the wake of President Barack Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray… and that has left key agencies in limbo. Politico says the mess complicates the implementation of major aspects of the Dodd-Frank reforms. The nominations that are on hold include candidates for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Treasury Department. In January, President Obama decided to Cordray as the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, using a recess appointment.
  • 130 Congressmen are urging Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to lift the DoD’s civilian workforce cap. Government Executive says the cap is part of the DoD’s current cost-saving initiative to cut the civilian workforce back to fiscal 2010 levels. The size-reduction effort was spearheaded by Panetta’s predecessor, Robert Gates. In July 2011, Senator Barbara Mikulski, and four other Senate Democrats co-signed a similar letter also urging Panetta to reconsider the civilian employee cap.
  • The FBI’s top cyber cop offered a grim appraisal of the nation’s efforts to keep computer hackers from plundering corporate data networks. Shawn Henry says “We’re outgunned and out-maned,” The Wall Street Journal says Henry is leaving the FBI after more than two decades with the bureau. He says “the current public and private approach to fending off hackers is “unsustainable.” Computer criminals are simply too talented and defensive measures too weak to stop them.”
  • Hackers broke into the database for a military dating Web site and stole passwords, e-mail addresses, and other information from nearly 171,000 accounts. CNet reports that the hack was apparently by the same group that took credit for attacks on sites belonging to Sony, PBS, the U.S. Senate, CIA, Arizona sheriffs, and others.
  • The Army is focusing making energy-saving a key part of its performance contracts. Federal News Radio reports the Army is upping expected to up its spending by $800 million to $2.5 billion. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability Richard Kidd said the $800 million investment would be over the next two years. This accompanies a Dec. 2 memo from President Barack Obama directed at federal agencies and departments to take new steps toward increasing the energy efficiency of federal facilities, in part through the use of performance-based contracting.
  • The EPA is implementing its first ever climate rules. Government Executive says EPA will limit greenhouse-gas emissions from new power plants. This is the agency’s first major regulatory action to address climate change as promised by President Obama’s administration soon after he took office in 2009.
  • Two northern virginia councils are teaming up to cut costs and add member value. The Northern Virginia Technology and the Council and Professional Services Council will extend member-level pricing to each other’s members for selected events, share legislative agendas and provide thought leadership.

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