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Day 35 of the Sequester – Plus the DorobekINSIDER’s 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • Every month the DorobekINSIDER breaks down your Thrift Savings Plan. We want to know the funds fare, changes to your retirement process and trends in the funds. So did March match February’s gains? Click here for the full recap.

But up front: Sequestration — yes, it is still going on. In fact, it is Sequestration: Day 35, for those counting.

Unlike the government shutdowns during the Clinton administration, sequestration has been something like a water torture — and mostly for government. The ongoing threat of furloughs as agencies work to make decisions that allow them to carry out their missions. (Furloughs at EPA are slated to start April 21, The Washington Post reports.) But the public have not noticed sequestration, by and large. Pre-sequestration cries of how the sky would fall have proven to be untrue. And while the National Journal suggested that the across-the-board cuts could be good for government, spurring an appreciation in what government actually does, the fact that the cuts happened and people haven’t noticed would seem to have deeper implications.

But, in fact, sequestration does have implications.

The Huffington Post notes: New studies downsize potential job losses because of the federal budget cuts. Agencies have figured ways to ensure that the more alarming effects (no food inspectors!) are avoided. Government organizations are coming up with methods to delay severe disruptions. Congress isn’t debating a replacement. The media have lost interest or have reduced it to a political argument. The economy was supposed to be brought to its knees by the $85 billion in cuts. Instead, we trudge along in a new normal.

This is a dramatic misunderstanding of what’s actually happening. The grips of sequestration are just now beginning to be felt and the effects are already quite dramatic.

The Washington Post today has this story: Cancer clinics are turning away thousands of Medicare patients. Blame the sequester. “Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially. Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them.”

The implications may not be easily seen outside the government world, but it is clear that it is no way to run an organization. And these days, National Journal argues what sequestration really says is that Congress needs to be fixed.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Federal employees have lower opinions of agency leadership than they did a year ago. It’s the first time in five years leadership scores have dropped according to analysis of OPM’s Employee Viewpoint Survey. Deloitte and the Partnership for Public Service dig into the data each year to come up with the best and worst places to work. NASA’s leadership scored the highest. Homeland Security earned the lowest score. We will be talking to Deloitte tomorrow.
  2. In the wake of sequestration’s the President Obama will voluntarily return 5 percent of his annual salary in a show of solidarity with at least 1 million furloughed federal workers. Federal Times reports Obama will start cutting monthly checks to the Treasury Department this month, the White House said. Obama earns $400,000 as president, and will return $20,000.
  3. Tight budgets have forced the Office of Personnel Management to cancel this year’s benefits conference. Federal Times reports, OPM said few benefit officers from around the federal government would have been able to attend the annual conference due to a lack of funds. OPM is also canceling a fall training festival that would have been held in November.
  4. A new Gallup poll suggests layoffs at federal agencies are more widespread than reported. Federal News Radio reports, forty-one percent of the feds polled say their employer is letting workers go. That’s a big change from pre-sequestration days, but it’s not a big surprise. The Pentagon has said it would fire temporary workers because of sequestration. NASA and other agencies have warned contract employees that their days could be numbered.
  5. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called for a sweeping overhaul of the military structure, similar to major organizational changes made under the 1980s Goldwater-Nichols Act. Federal Times reports despite shrinking in size dramatically during the 1990s following the end of the Cold War, the military has not adapted. Large commands, led by three- and four-star generals, and elaborate support structures have remained intact.
  6. A new law will vet all IT system purchases made by select federal agencies, including the Commerce and Justice Departments, NASA, and the National Science Foundation. Network World reports that as part of the vetting process, the U.S. will consider “cyber-espionage or sabotage” risks to the IT system purchases, as well as if the system was “produced, manufactured, or assembled” by companies with links to the Chinese government.
  7. And on GovLoop. You can now register for the April edition of DorobekINSIDER Live. We’ll be talking citizen engagement. Register for the free event here.

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder:

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