Issue of the Week: Budget uncertainty reigns supreme and your weekend reads

Welcome to
 GovLoop Insights
Issue of the Week with Chris Dorobek where each week, our goal is to find an issue — a person — an idea — then helped define the past 7-days and we work to find an issue that will also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead.

We had a good week here on GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER.

  • We spoke to
 Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) about his proposal on duplicative government programs. Before lawmakers create new programs, he wants the Congressional Research Service to assess if there is a program that is already doing what the program is trying to do. And you should listen to the end because he has very kind words about public servants.
  • We introduced you to the first Service to American Medal finalist –
Michelle Bernier-Toth. She leads the team who comes in when there is some problem overseas and Americans — including feds — have to get out of dodge, When those feds and regular americans alike get caught in a situation like the uprising in Syria, the overthrow of governments in Egypt and Libya, or the earthquake in Haiti they turn to U.S. embassies and consulates for information and assistance.
  • We answered more of your career questions with 
Frank DiGiammarino. Like battling through low employee morale and dealing with public fed bashing.

Each day on GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER, we bring you the news that matters to you. On Fridays, we like to take a step back and look at the stories from the week that rose to the top.

  • Howard Schmidt the administration’s first official cyber czar is retiring. Federal news radio reports,
during his tenure, Schmidt oversaw the first White House legislative proposal on cybersecurity and unveiled the first
 international strategy for cyberspace. The Office of Management and Budget’s Michael Daniel, who worked in in the national security division, has been named to succeed Schmidt as the White House cyber czar
  • The federal pay debate is back in the headlines — this time it’s centered on your bonuses. The Office of Personnel Management says the federal government paid at least $439 million in employee bonuses last year— that’s down $43 million since new austerity restrictions were announced. The Federal Times reports, the largest merit awards went to senior executives in Washington and air-traffic controllers. OPM says starting next year agencies must limit total spending on performance-based awards to 5 percent of salaries for senior managers, and 1 percent for lower-ranking employees.
  • The Postal Service is no longer shutting down nearly 600 urban and suburban post offices. The Associated Press says the Postal Service announced last year that it was looking at closing up to 252 mail-processing centers and 3,700 post offices, as part of a plan to save some $6.5 billion a year. But they began backing off the plan last week, saying it no longer planned to close thousands of rural post offices but would keep them open with shorter hours. The Postal Service has said it will also put forward a new plan for the mail processing centers later this week.

But our issue of the week is the budget.And there was a lot of budget talk this week, some of which seemed to raise the possibility of a government shutdown sometime this year — the possibility.
 House Speaker John Boehner, speaking at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s 2012 Fiscal Summit, essentially drew a line in the sand about raising the federal government’s
 debt limit. He warned that he won’t permit another increase in the debt ceiling without a larger amount of spending cuts and reforms approved in tandem. And then there were macinations about the budget — the House passed some bills that seem very unlikely to get through the Senate while the White House issued veto threats… and the Senate actually just rejected five different budget strategies.

What does it all mean… and what should you be watching out for?
 Stan Collendar
 is the director of federal budget policy for Qorvis Communications, and author of the popular Capital Gains and Games blog. He told Chris Dorobek that the Speaker may have made a miscalculation.

Collendar says the next few years agencies will face 3 things when it comes to their budgets:

  1. Continued budget uncertainty
  2. No more major budget increases
  3. A big squeeze on contractors — the government’s going to demand better pricing models, lower product margins

Weekend reads

  • We spend a lot of time here talking about how government can be innovative. Steve Denning, author of the book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century
 writing in Forbes, has a how to for making government innovative again. He says that government often isn’t innovative because there are no clear stakeholders for programs, and that the core competency of many agencies is simply survival and that too often, government is driven by management fads. Denning’s recommendations: focus on outcomes; give employees more autonomy; fend off the enemies of innovation; be opportunistic yet strategic, and he says, get a life. Quoting Denning — sometimes public officials say that introducing bold change in their agency is just too risky. It’s simpler, they say, to keep one’s head down and wait for their retirement to kick in. The issue here is: is this a life worth living? Denning asks. Why not do something meaningful with your brief time on earth, by doing what is right? Prepare your parachute certainly, but stop pushing papers and start delighting your primary stakeholders.

  • Crowdsourcing strategy. Does it sound a bit crazy? A few companies are actually trying it out, and McKinsey Quarterly says they are actually boosting organizational alignment at the same time. By opening up strategic planning, a company can tap into a more diverse pool of ideas and build enthusiasm by engaging workers in the process – giving them a sense of ownership. It also boosts transparency and transforms the role of the CEO and other senior executives from “all-knowing decision makers,” to “social architects,” McKinsey Quarterly says. That means they spend a lot of time thinking about “how to create the processes and incentives that unearth the best thinking and unleash the full potential of all who work at a company.”

  • And finally, if you have some time this weekend, I would definitely recommend at least listening to the Charlie Rose interview with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. It is a wonderful conversation about his tenure in that job, the challenges facing the Defense Department — and, by extension, government. Gates always has struck me as somebody who cared about public service — and public servants and somebody who was a true leader. Mr. Gates, if you ever want to come on this program, we’d love to have you… in the meantime, I recommend the Charlie Rose interview.

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