With the 2012 Presidential Election now behind us, a host of key issues affecting federal employees nationwide are once again front and center. Following is a post-election primer presenting a snapshot of five key issue areas for Feds during President Obama's second term.
To watch the President's acceptance speech, click here.
1) Sequestration & Fiscal Cliff. The U.S. Government is plodding perilously close to falling off the so-called Fiscal Cliff. This disaster would mean draconian automatic spending cuts affecting every federal agency. Moreover, sequestration also includes the real possibility of mandatory furloughs for Feds if the President of the United States (POTUS) and Congress fail to reach a deal – not to mention many other potential calamitous consequences for the fragile U.S. economy and the global economy. But according to the New York Times:
“In language and timing, the leaders of Congress’s two chambers left the unmistakable impression that they want a deal at least large enough to avert the worst economic impacts of a sudden rise in tax rates that would affect virtually every American family, working or not."
Wall Street Journal - "CBO: Fiscal Cliff Could Trigger Recession"
CBS News - "Boehner: We'll work with Obama to avert fiscal cliff"
Federal Times - "Report downplays effects of sequestration"
2) Pay & Benefits. Perhaps nothing is more near and dear to the pocketbooks and wallets of Feds than their personal pay and benefits. Yet due to the looming U.S. budget deficit and the daunting national debt, the Administration and Congress are eyeing such sensitive issues as:
Another federal pay freeze, more hikes to pension/retirement contributions, additional buyouts and early retirement options...and let's not forget about the ominous Retirement Tsunami.
GovExec.com reports in its Pay and Benefits column: "The Obama administration and lawmakers from both parties generally favor increasing the amount government workers contribute to their pensions. Federal employee unions, including the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, are poised to do battle to protect retirement benefits and pay as the lame-duck session gets under way and the new Congress convenes in January 2013."
Washington Post - "Federal employees know what to expect with Obama"
Government Executive - "Protecting federal pay and benefits remains top priority for union"
3) Status of Federal Agencies. First, the President and Congress must approve funding for FY 2013 agency appropriations, or at least extend the latest Continuing Resolution temporarily funding the federal government – which is set to expire March 27, 2013.
Other key issues potentially impacting agencies government-wide include: more spending cuts, more stringent funding limits for conferences and travel, streamlining duplicative programs, merging overlapping jurisdictions, and consolidating entire agencies or subcomponents. During the campaign, the President broached the idea of merging similar programs and offices related to commerce and trade via a new Secretary of Business.
Then, there’s the question of how newly appointed Cabinet secretaries and agency heads will lead the federal bureaucracy – and the potential impact on agency priorities, programs, personnel, and employee moral.
National Journal - "Who Might Serve in a Second Obama Administration?"
Federal News Radio - "Feds should expect minor tweaks in Obama's second term"
Washington Post - "Employee groups happy but say threat of cuts remains"
4) Management Agenda. The President's Management Agenda and related issues will affect every agency to a large extent, in addition to the massive community of federal contractors. The question is whether the President's re-election provides a mandate to govern? Items of interest include Open Government and increased transparency, pay-for-performance, hiring reform, strategic outsourcing, acquisition and procurement, e-Gov, performance and accountability standards, as well as labor-management relations generally.
AP - "With Congress litte changed, and both sides claiming mandates, Obama renews agenda"
Government Executive - "Obama's victory gives management reformers breathing room"
5) IT Advancements. The adoption of new and cutting edge advancements in information technology – or lack thereof – can help or hinder the popular concept of “doing more with less.” At stake is the growing influence of CIOs, plus specific agency IT budgets and mission critical programs – such as cyber-security, cloud computing and Big Data. Emerging issues include Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD), Geographic Information System (GIS), new gov apps, as well as enhancing the use of mobile and digital platforms -- such as social media -- for more effective customer service and engagement. The White House recently issued a Digital Government Strategy.
According to NextGov.com, "The greatest pressure on federal IT during the second term will be demonstrating that cloud computing, big data analysis and other initiatives can produce the cost savings they promised for government. Some pressure for cost cutting also will come from the fact that technology initiatives begun during Obama’s first years in office are now well under way."
Government Executive - "Technology Hand-Off"
GovLoop - "The Digital Government Strategy Timeline - An Infographic"
NextGov - "Obama win means continued technology focus at the Pentagon"
*** QUESTIONS ***
Which of these key topics matter most to you and your agency?
What other major policy areas are you paying close attention to as a Fed?
* Note: All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only.