Building interagency teamwork, innovating emergency responses and reaction to Romney’s VP pick

On today’s program

  • Every year thousands of patients die due to preventable medical errors. One man’s leading a team to eliminate those mistakes. His work has made him a service to america medal finalist. You’ll meet him. Click here for the full recap.
  • Making calling 911 easier and more effective — it’s called Smart911. You’ll find out how it works. Click here for the full recap.
  • And in the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder — NASA’s Curiosity Twitter stream and why it is awesome and Rover engineers on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

The presidential race is now set — President Obama and Vice President Biden for the Democrats up against Republican presidential candidate Romney and, after this weekend, his selection for a running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. There has been a lot of talk about what this means — and much discussion that the selection could elevate the discussion to a true discussion of how deal with the budget situation.

But what could a Romney-Ryan team mean for government? Many people are going back and reexamining the Ryan budget what Paul Ryan’s budget actually cuts — and by how much.

The Washington Post’s Joe Davidson says the Ryan plan, if it were enacted, would hit federal workers hard.

Davidson writes that Ryan’s budget plan — The Path to Prosperity — has spurred strong opposition from federal employees. Under the plan, savings from the federal workforce would total $368 billion over 10 years. The two-year freeze on basic federal pay rates, scheduled to expire at the end of this year, would be extended through 2015 for a total of five years. The budget plan is named, also calls on federal workers to make an unspecified “more equitable contribution to their retirement plans,” which means higher costs to employees. Additionally, the federal workforce would be cut, through attrition over three years, by 10 percent, which equals more than 200,000 positions. And because the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Justice and Homeland Security have so many employees, the majority of the eliminated positions would come from these agencies, all of which are related to national security. And, in fact, the budget document calls out government employees specifically saying it “reflect the growing frustration of workers across the country at the privileged rules enjoyed by government employees.”

Ryan’s budget justifies the employee-related cuts, saying “it is no coincidence that private sector employment continues to grow only sluggishly while the government expands: To pay for the public sector’s growth, Washington must immediately tax the private sector or else borrow and impose taxes later to pay down the debt.”

Federal employees are already contributing $75 billion in budget savings over 10 years through the freeze, for $60 billion, and another $15 billion in increased retirement costs for new employees starting next year.

The plan drew strong opposition from employee organizations when it was announced in March. American Federation of Government Employees President John Gage said the retirement savings means workers would “face massive cuts to the retirement benefits promised when they were hired.”

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein argues that Paul Ryan isn’t a deficit hawk. He’s a conservative reformer. The common thread throughout his career is his desire to remake the basic architecture of the the federal government, Klein writes.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life for Monday the 13th of August, 2012

  1. The Defense Department is looking to improve whistle-blower protections. The DoD has seen whistle blower reprisal cases rise by about 40 percent in the past few years. Federal Times says the increase is partly due to legislative amendments that expanded the types of protected whistle-blower communications and to court cases that clarified what types of actions could be considered retaliatory, employment protection. To deal with the hike the DoD Inspector General has increased the size of its office. It’s also helping managers understand that reports of misconduct are not personal attacks, but expressions of concern about what is best for the agency and government.
  2. The sex scandal at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas has cost a top commander there his job. Colonel Glenn Palmer was relieved of duty because his supervisors lost confidence in his ability to lead the 737th Training Group. But the supervisors stopped short of blaming Palmer for the base’s recent problems. The Los Angeles Times reports six Lackland instructors have been charged with a variety of crimes, including rape and adultery. Investigators estimate that close to 40 women were targeted by superiors who used their rank to coerce sexual favors.
  3. Twenty-two-year-old Naser Jason Abdo was given two consecutive life sentences on top of 60 years in prison for a bomb and shooting plot at the Fort Hood Army Base in Texas last year. Abdo who represented himself told the court “I have continued to answer the call of jihad and will continue to the day I am called to account for my deeds.” The Los Angeles Times reports, Abdo told the court his acts of violence were motivated by crimes he said the U.S. has committed against Muslims. Abdo was reportedly defiant during the hearing, speaking in Arabic. He was required by officials to wear a mesh mask after he spat blood that he believed to be infected with HIV on security guards who escorted him.
  4. The Transportation Security Administration has opened an investigation into claims made by TSA officers that minorities were being improperly targeted for screening at Boston’s Logan Airport. The New York Times reports that more than 30 officers have complained to TSA about what they say is a widespread practice, one that in part results from demands from management for more searches. The TSA says it will take “immediate and decisive action” if the allegations are proven true.
  5. The switch to a new travel system could cost agencies millions. Federal Times reports civilian agencies agencies could also suffer delays as they transition to a new automated travel management system. That is in part because of an industry challenge has sidelined the $1.4 billion e-travel contract award by the General Services Administration.
  6. The Postal Service has reported a $5.2 billion loss for the third quarter of fiscal 2012. Federal Times says for the first nine months of 2012, the Postal Service has lost a total of $11.6 billion, compared with $5.7 billion at the same point last year. Back on August 1st the Postal Service defaulted on a $5.5 billion installment originally due last September. That was the first time the postal service has ever defaulted on a payment. But it might not be the last. USPS leaders say they also lack the cash to meet a $5.6 billion payment due at the end of next month.
  7. And on GovLoop, have you checked out our new jobs site here on GovLoop? We’ve built it on top of USAJOBS data, mashed it up with LinkedIn, GlassDoor and GovLoop information, and basically tried to provide a new approach to searching for federal jobs — just like Kayak provides new ways to search for flights. Just one of the new features allow you to filter jobs by grade and promotion potential.

Your Watercooler Fodder
NASA’s Mars rovers — I can’t get enough of it, anyway. I hope you are also in awe. Last week we mentioned NASA’s mohawk man. Well, over the weekend, the mohawk man and the Elvis guy were on NPS’s quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. If you didn’t hear it — it is awesome.
Meanwhile, if you don’t follow Curiosity on Twitter — maybe you’re not on Twitter, well, this is a good reason to get online. Gizmodo writes about the NASA employees that make Curiosity’s Twitter stream so awesome… there are actually three NASA employees from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: Veronica McGregor, Social Media Manager, and Stephanie L. Smith and Courtney O’Connor. And one of key decisions was to write it in the “voice” of Curiosity — as if the rover was tweeting.

Christian Science Monitor asks if Curiosity can help fund future Mars exploration? Yes, Curiosity has been a success, but NASA is in the final stages of a major overhaul of its robotic exploration effort at Mars. In the past, such overhauls have come after spectacular failures – after the loss of the Mars Observer orbiter in 1993 and again after the loss of two more missions in 1999. But this one is coming in the midst of triumph, but with very real budget questions.

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