U.S. gays face challenges serving abroad, plus more items that caught our attention

A few items that caught our attention on Tuesday:

Austin Watkins, left, is a civilian defense worker deployed in Japan. His husband, Joseph Marcey, right, lives in Washington. - (Courtesy of Austin Watkins). Austin Watkins, left, with husband Joseph Marcey, is a civilian defense worker deployed in Japan. Marcey lives in Washington. (Courtesy of Austin Watkins)

U.S. gays face challenges serving abroad: Despite recent advancements in gay rights in this country, diplomatic issues have seemingly trumped federal policy for some U.S. gays serving abroad through the State and Defense Departments and the Peace Corps, according to The Washington Post .

Possible action against Syria reignites budget concerns: Lawmakers are worried that a U.S. military response to alleged chemical-weapons use by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could trigger a broader conflict and lead to another costly war, according to Reuters.

Federal agencies struggle to launch insider-threat programs: A report to Congress shows that nearly half the agencies handling classified data on their networks lack the ability to prevent damaging information leaks by disgruntled insiders, according to the Federal Times.

Feds pay millions for border-agent housing in Arizona: U.S. Customs and Border Protection spent about $15 million for housing in the former mining town of Ajo, Ariz., drawing intense criticism from the state’s congressional delegation. The Arizona Republic revealed the expenditures; USA Today covered the response from lawmakers.

Budget cuts hit low-income students harder than wealthy ones: Wealthy school districts appear better able to absorb the loss of federal education funding, according to an MSNBC report.

TSP tanks in August: The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board reported that all the funds in the Thrift Savings Plan with the exception of the government-securities G Fund finished August in negative territory, according to a Federal News radio report.

Ex-State Department employee pleads guilty to $53 million fraud: A former State Department contract employee and her husband face up to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty Friday to fraud and conspiracy charges in a scam to steer tens of millions of dollars in embassy construction contracts to the husband’s firm, according to a Federal Times blog post.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed or e-mail  josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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Josh Hicks · September 3, 2013