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Countdown to another fiscal fail? – Plus the DorobekINSIDER’s 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

Countdown to Another Fiscal Fail

  • National Journal: Congress braces for brutal choice—more sequester or another shutdown: “They could get it done. Even House Speaker John Boehner says he’s hopeful. But other lawmakers and aides say the odds are not good, and that’s why House Republicans are now prepared to pass a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government at the $966 billion level that’s dictated by the Budget Control Act, ushering in round two of the hated sequester cuts. The GOP strategy carries significant downside, however. Republicans want the spending cuts, but this next phase of sequestration includes politically tricky reductions to Pentagon spending—a $20 billion slash that many lawmakers are desperate to stop. House Republicans, particularly, could find themselves in a lose-lose situation.

  • NYT: Inside the Race to Rescue a Health Care Site, and Obama

  • WSJ: Pentagon Officials Point to Efficiency as Upside in Cuts

  • With Keith Alexander out fighting fires, meet the woman who’s really running the NSA

  • Washington Post: A narrow budget agreement is coming into view in Washington

  • 113th Congress, going down in history for its inaction, has a critical December to-do list. The good news for Congress as it heads into the final workdays of the year is that, for the first time in five years, there are no edge-of-the-cliff December crises threatening to bring the country to its knees. The bad news is that whatever gets done in December will still be part of a year with record-low congressional accomplishment, reports Paul Kane.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. The Navy is once again grappling with allegations that one of its contract suppliers has defrauded the organization of millions of dollars. Inchcape Shipping Services, a company that provides contract services for Navy ships off the coasts of the Middle East, Africa, and South America has supposedly been profiting off of Navy officials by overcharging them exorbitantly. The New York Times reports that the Justice Department is currently investigating Inchcape Shipping Services and that the company’s ability to win federal contracts has been temporarily suspended.

  2. The White House announced yesterday that the site, Healthcare.gov, is now capable of operating smoothly for most users. The Federal Times notes that the site can now handle 50,000 users at a time, equaling a total of 800,000 individuals a day. White House appointee, Jeffrey Zients, states that significant improvements have been made to the site with IT workers having resolved more than 400 of the site’s issues.

  3. The GAO is urging the Energy Department to improve its oversight of its “work for others” program, which allows other federal agencies and commercial entities to use DOE’s scientific expertise and laboratories for their own projects. Given tightening budgets, the GAO warns that DOE may not be able to sustain its current laboratory structure and that the organization could become increasingly dependent on the revenue from other agencies using its equipment and facilities. The result, the Stars and Stripes observes, would be the potential diversion of resources away from DOE’s assigned responsibilities and work.

  4. The House budget committee is discussing alternatives to further sequestration cuts and another government shutdown in January. Among these alternatives is the option of making federal employees contribute more towards their pensions. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), one of the committee’s leaders, is proposing a drastic 5.5 percent increase in federal employee contributions towards retirement, stating that this move could potentially save the government $132 billion over the next ten years. Federal News Radio suggests that an increase in federal employee retirement contributions is likely, but that unions are fighting against this policy, arguing that federal workers have sacrificed enough.

  5. The director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), George Cohen, will be stepping down at the end of this year. His resignation will take effect on December 31 and coincide with his 80th birthday and the four year anniversary of his time as director of FMCS. The Federal Times states that though the agency was recently investigated for the misuse of resources and other issues, Cohen’s decision to step down as director is not tied to such events.

  6. Military personnel are guaranteed a one percent pay raise in 2014 regardless of whether or not Congress approves legislation authorizing a salary increase for servicemembers. Under executive authority, President Obama has recommended a pay raise for military members that will go into effect during the first pay period of 2014. The Government Executive reports that even with the President’s recommendations, Congress is attempting to agree on a pay raise for the military. The House passed its fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill in June, which includes a 1.8 percent wage increase for federal troops. The Senate’s version of the bill is currently stalled, but only allows for a 1 percent pay raise.

  7. A joint project between the Marines, the Office of Naval Research, and the Naval Research Laboratory is geared towards developing a system by which the military can quickly transmit real-time, important data to Marines fighting on the front lines. Known as Agile Bloodhound, the project is attempting to share data from headquarters through commercial smartphones that are connected to the soldiers’ existing tactical radio system. Federal News Radio states that though the project is in its initial stages, the Marines hope to begin procurement work for some elements of the initiative within the next one to two years.

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • The Boston Globe: The most important people who ever lived: A new ranking system puts Napoleon above Shakespeare and Darwin, and finds some very overrated artists.

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