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News briefs: Week of Sept. 16, 2013

Sep. 16, 2013 - 08:55AM   |  
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Clapper warns of sequester impact on IC

Sequestration. Snowden. Syria.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper refers to them as the three S’s. On the first of those topics, Clapper made clear at a Washington conference that the intelligence community isn’t immune to the sequester cuts he says will reduce the IC’s capabilities.

“Whatever you think about intelligence, well, you’re going to have a lot less of it to complain about,” Clapper said during a keynote at the Intelligence National Security Alliance IC summit last week.

Cuts of this magnitude will force agencies to accept greater risks in some areas that they traditionally have not, he said. Agencies made budget decisions based on the assumption the sequester wouldn’t extend into fiscal 2014.

On former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, Clapper said while his acts were egregious, they sparked much-needed conversations. But Clapper is disturbed by the impact and public perception the leaks have had on NSA and the potential national security damage to come.

Courts seek Obama's help to defray cuts

The federal judiciary is appealing to President Obama for help in undoing some of this year’s budget cuts in fiscal 2014. As congressional leaders and the administration seek to reach a spending deal, the judicial branch “will not have a seat at the table,” Judge John Bates, secretary of the Judicial Conference of the United States, wrote in a letter last week asking Obama to support raising court funding above this year’s sequester level.

The sequester, which cost the courts almost $350 million, has forced steep cuts to drug and mental health treatment, federal indigent defense and GPS monitoring, Bates said. A hard freeze at current levels in 2014 would further diminish “all facets of court operations,” he said.

Agencies have won all furlough appeals to date

The Merit Systems Protection Board has thus far decided 40 furlough-related appeals, all in favor of the government, Clerk William Spencer said late last week. None of those came from Defense Department employees who have filed almost all of the approximately 32,000 furlough appeals that have flooded the board following agencies’ decisions to use unpaid time off as one way to handle budget cuts caused by the sequester.

MSPB staff have now docketed most of those appeals and are seeking to consolidate cases to “allow for adjudication in the most efficient and equitable manner possible,” the agency said in a notice on its web site last week.

Bribery charges filed in GSA probe

Owners of six companies face federal bribery charges stemming from a General Services Administration investigation into alleged bribes to win maintenance and painting work at government buildings.

The charges, filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland and announced Sept. 11, allege the contractors paid bribes to a building manager who was secretly cooperating with government investigators.

The defendants paid the unnamed GSA cooperator anywhere from $400 to $1,300 each in exchange for multiple contracts. Those contracts were worth between $3,000 to nearly $9,000 per contractor, authorities said.

Prosecutors identified the defendants, all of whom live in Maryland, as Carl Roberts, 48; Ronald Wilkinson, 60; Robert Hales, 52; Darold Patterson, 72; and Daryl Kitchen, 59.

“We will continue to pursue contractors who line their own pockets by bribing corrupt officials at the expense of the American taxpayers,” GSA Inspector General Brian Miller said in a statement announcing the charges.

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