Furloughs Go Out At Some Agencies – Plus the DorobekINSIDER 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • Facebook gets a new newsfeed. That’s great for the average user, but how will the new newsfeed impact government’s social media outreach. Click here for the full recap.

But up front: Sequestration’s Furloughs Start

Furlough notices went out for some feds this week:

  • The Labor Department has sent furlough notices to just under a third of its employees, about 4,700 people. They would have to take an average of six days off from work without pay before October. A department spokesman told Federal Times, Labor plans to space out those days so that each employee would have just one per month. He said the situation is still fluid. Managers are looking for savings in contracts and grants. The department says it hopes to realize enough savings to cancel some of the furloughs.
  • Federal Times: Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania plans to lay off more than 400 contract employees by the end of next month due to declining workload and sequester budget cuts. Last week, Tobyhanna officials announced that all of the depot’s roughly 3,600 Army civilian employees will be furloughed for 22 days between next month and the end of September. The three-stage contractor layoffs will affect up to 418 employees of Oklahoma-based URS Federal Support Services who aid in the depot’s mission of making and maintaining radars, satellite terminals and hundreds of other electronic systems. The first stage will take place this Friday and cost 95 URS workers their jobs, followed by 216 layoffs on April 15 and another 107 on April 30, the release said. The URS workers account for more than half of Tobyhanna’s approximately 700 contract staff.

Fiscal Times asks: How is YOUR agency dealing with #sequestration?

Cabinet’s quandary: Explaining sequester cuts—President Barack Obama and his Cabinet got burned last month for overhyping the effects of $85 billion in spending cuts. Now federal agencies are grappling with a double-barreled problem: How to make those cuts real and explain what they mean to a public that didn’t buy in to the hysteria the first time.
And it’s not just agencies that may be forced to layoff personnel. The Courts are also contemplating furloughs.

Federal Times: Some federal courts may have to suspend civil jury trials in September if other options for managing across-the-board budget cuts fall short. In addition, the courts may have to lay off up to 2,000 employees or impose furloughs for one day per pay period, Thomas Hogan, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, said in a letter last week to members of Congress. Throughout the court system, about 21,000 employees are vulnerable to furloughs or other cuts.

Meanwhile other budget issues are taking center stage:

  • Politico reports, Senate takes its own path on CR—Caught between a different president and hostile House speaker, Senate Democrats took a page from Irish politics Monday night—and swung back at both. That’s the true bottom line to a stopgap spending bill filed by the Appropriations Committee leadership late in the evening—a 587-page measure designed to avert any shutdown March 27 and map a six-month path forward for agencies in the wake of sequestration.
  • SEC says Illinois hid pension problems. Illinois settled SEC civil-fraud charges that the state misled municipal-bond investors by failing to adequately disclose the risks of its underfunded pension system, the WSJ reports. The action was part of a broader push by the SEC to bring transparency and accountability to the muni market. The problems date back to 1994, when Illinois lawmakers passed a funding plan that would allow the state to spread the pension costs over 50 years. Illinois also left it to lawmakers to decide how much to contribute to the funds each year. In some years, the state took “pension holidays,” lowering its planned pension contributions by about half.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. A government watchdog says the federal ‘Cloud First’ initiative has serious cybersecurity issues. Federal cloud computing initiatives, linchpins of federal CIO Steven VanRoekel’s strategy to cut government IT costs while improving transparency, are facing a “continuing [cybersecurity] challenge,” notably where “emerging technologies such as cloud computing” are concerned, according to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office. Mr. VanRoekel told the Wall Street Journal the government will continue pushing forward with “innovative technologies such as cloud,” but is simultaneously developing “a standardized approach to security assessments, authorizations, and continuous monitoring for cloud products.”
  2. Federal Times reports, The Defense Contract Audit Agency’s work consistently fell short of professional standards, according to a new Defense Department inspector general’s report. In a review of 50 DCAA reports issued in the first half of fiscal 2010, the inspector general found problems in 37, ranging from contractor meddling to poor documentation to ineffective supervision. DCAA should consider rescinding or amending some reports and reassess policies, procedures and training the IG report recommended.
  3. The Obama administration made its first direct response to a raft of attacks on American computer networks, many of which appear to have originated with the Chinese military. The New York Times reports, Obama’s National Security Adviser Donilon said the White House, is seeking three things from Beijing: public recognition of the urgency of the problem; a commitment to crack down on hackers in China; and an agreement to take part in a dialogue to establish global standards.
  4. Thrift Savings Plan has issued a warning for iPhone users about an app called TSP Funds. Federal News Radio reports the app is not sanctioned by TSP. It’s being offered in the Apple App store by a third party called iSystemIntegrator. It asks TSP participants to enter their account login information and offers access to personalized fund performance data. TSP warns that providing this information could pose a security risk.
  5. Federal News Radio reports, NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane told the Associated Press plants are safer than ever, though not trouble-free. All but five of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors were performing at acceptable safety levels at the end of last year. But the Union of Concerned Scientists says nearly one in six U.S. nuclear reactors experienced safety breaches last year, due in part to weak oversight. The group accuses the NRC of “tolerating the intolerable.” It bases its report on the agency’s own data.
  6. FCW reports the Obama administration wants to revise several acquisition rules dealing with small-business size protests in an effort to standardize rules. The proposal to update the Federal Acquisition Regulation was detailed in a Federal Register. Among other measures, the proposal would allow SBA 15 days to determine the size of a protested company, up from 10 days.
  7. And on GovLoop, register now for the March DorobekINSIDER Live where we talk about the trends in Gov 2.0.

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