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Budget's Impact on your Benefits? - Plus the DorobekINSIDER's 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • NASA’s Curiosity Rover has more than 1.4 million followers on Twitter. The robotic wonder is also a social media master. We take a look at NASA’s out of this world social media with the guru herself Veronica McGregor.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. The new budget deal will reduce, but not eliminate, the need for unpaid furloughs and personnel cuts over the next two years. The Federal Times reports that as part of the budget agreement, lawmakers have partially repealed sequestration-related spending cuts for fiscal 2014 and 2015. In addition to providing relief from sequestration, the new budget agreement allows OPM to expand the enrollment options under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, FEHBP. The Government Executive notes that FEHBP enrollment options may soon include a “self plus one” coverage option for employees and their spouses or dependents. The budget deal, overall, still needs approval from the full House and Senate before any of its proposals go into effect.

  2. Veterans organizations and bipartisan members of Congress are pushing for the immediate passage of the Putting Veterans Funding First Act. This legislation, if approved, will fund the remaining 14 percent of the VA’s budget in advance regardless of whether or not Congress is able to pass a final budget in January. Defense One states that the need for this type of legislation was made evident during the October government shutdown. Lacking funding, the VA was unable to staff its help desks and service centers, drastically slowing down the processing of veterans disability claims.

  3. Lawmakers in the House and Senate Armed Services committees have delayed reforming the federal IT acquisition process by a year by not including the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) as part of the Defense Authorization bill, which committee members approved earlier this week. Federal News Radio specifies that the House version of the bill included a FITARA provision, but the Senate version did not. Lawmakers may try to pass FITARA as a piece of standalone legislation, but there is skepticism regarding whether or not such an attempt will be successful.

  4. Congressman Darrell Issa, (R-CA), the head of the legislative investigation into the performance and project management of Healthcare.gov, has charged HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with criminal obstruction of his investigation. Issa’s accusations are based on a letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, instructing a contractor that worked on Healthcare.gov to not turn over correspondence and other documents to congressional investigators. Nextgov reports that HHS officials will respond to Issa’s charges at a later date, but for now, are emphasizing that the agency is attempting to comply with Issa’s investigation while protecting private consumer information and technology secrets.

  5. The Air Force intends to eliminate about 900 civilian jobs in fiscal 2014 to meet with budget constraints. The Federal Times states that the agency is first attempting to implement early-out programs, offering a round of early retirement offers and buyout incentives worth up to $25,000. For those who accept, their expected retirement date will be February 28. The director of force management policy, Brig. Gen. Gina Grosso, emphasizes that unlike in 2013, the Air Force will not use furloughs to meet budget requirements next year. Instead, the agency is relying on a mixture of early buyout and reduction-in-force measures.

  6. The United States' black intelligence budget for information technology that can bug and infiltrate other IT systems worldwide is expected to increase from 23 to 34 percent, according to a new IDC report. The timeline for this increase is uncertain, but Nextgov reports that it is being driven by the need of intelligence analysts for more data collection tools and supercomputers. In the area of cryptanalysis and exploitation services, IDC’s report found that the NSA currently spends $1 billion. This is only a fraction, however, of the total U.S. budget for "consolidated cryptologic" programs, which equals $11 billion annually.

  7. Democratic members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved yesterday President Obama’s nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, for the number two leadership position at DHS. However, during the committee vote, Mayorkas received little to no support from Republican members, who voted present during the proceedings. Federal News Radio observes that Republican committee members object to Mayorkas’ nomination because he is currently the subject of an ongoing Homeland Security inspector general's investigation. Mayorkas allegedly inappropriately influenced decisions in a foreign investor visa program; a claim that he denies.

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