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Pay Freeze Extended, for how long? – DorobekINSIDER 7 Stories you need to know

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

But up front: Sequestration 2?
Congress has yet to resolve fiscal cliff — or, in the government world, sequestration. But Politico reports that lawmakers are considering a proposal that looks something like sequestration — Politico calls it sequester II.

“Designed to head off the deep automatic spending cuts and higher tax rates set to kick in next year, the proposal is to instruct — actually, mandate — the powerful House and Senate tax-writing committees to rewrite the Tax Code. And if they fail? That part isn’t firmed up yet. But some mechanism would kick in to force Congress’s hand to slash the deficit and overhaul tax and spending laws. The goal, just like this time, would be to make the cost of failure greater than the pain of any compromise.”

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Congress has passed a $500 billion continuing resolution bill. Once the President signs the CR, the government will be assured of no shutdown on Sept. 30. But, Federal News Radio reports Congress left undone passage of a farm bill that covers many federal food and nutrition programs, and it has yet to find an alternative to sequestration, which will automatically cut budgets in January. Expect a lot of honking from the lame duck session.
  2. Included in the continuing resolution is a provision to continue the federal pay freeze. Government Executive says the measure ensures feds, already working under a two-year pay freeze, will not see a salary bump until April at the earliest. President Obama in August recommended a 0.5 percent pay raise for federal workers in 2013 but not until Congress passes a budget, effectively extending the freeze that took effect in January 2011. Individual employees still remain eligible for raises if they receive promotions, step increases, or performance awards.
  3. Agencies have a week to meet a mandate to upgrade their public-facing networks. But, Federal News Radio reports, few will make the deadline. Since 2005, the Office of Management and Budget has been urging agencies to upgrade to version six of the Internet Protocol. Commerce Department figures show that 58 percent of agencies are nowhere near complete. Conversion will ensure networks remain universally accessible in the future. There’s no immediate danger to websites and services that still use IP version four. All new devices and data center gear use IP version six, because Internet addresses available under the old protocol have run out. Commerce also reports, half of agencies haven’t upgraded the security for their top level domains.
  4. Defense News reports, to combat typical cost growth that could defeat the Pentagon’s global strategy, the Defense Department is pushing a series of acquisition reforms, a senior Pentagon official said at a Senate aerospace caucus breakfast hosted by the Aerospace Industries Association Sept. 19. The changes could significantly alter the way the agency and contractors do business, rewriting instructions to acquisition officers, training the work force and killing unaffordable programs earlier in the development cycle.
  5. Homeland Security Department needs to be more disciplined about managing projects. The Government Accountability Office looked at 71 programs. It said nearly all of them were experiencing hiccups like uncertain funding, a shortage of workers or a change of resources. The auditors said these problems weren’t new, but they were growing more expensive. It said DHS needed to manage its acquisition portfolio as a whole rather than looking at each program individually. And it said while the department has some good policies on the books, program managers have to follow them. (GAO)
  6. The Transportation Security Administration is dropping nearly half a billion dollars on compact, next-generation body scanners to better detect concealed explosives, such as the newfangled underwear bomb recently seized in Yemen. The imaging machines, like other upgraded systems, hide a passenger’s nude body from TSA officers by displaying generic representations of appendages with suspect items flagged. Two five-year contracts, each worth $245 million, have been awarded to L-3 Communications Corp. and American Science and Engineering Inc., according to government databases. The procurement documents released during the past week do not disclose the number of machines purchased or name the airports where they will be stationed.
  7. And on GovLoop, have you checked out our Digital Government Guide? Technological advancements have enabled government to improve how services are delivered to citizens. This guide focuses on the technology that has enabled government to increase productivity, improve performance and innovate proactively. Throughout this report, we highlight the top trends for technology and government, and how new tools are radically changing the government technology landscape. Check it out here.

A few items from the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • DHS headquarters consolidation:The Congressional Research Service has issued a report looking at the Congressional issues involved with consolidating the Homeland Security Department’s headquarters in Washington. The bottom line: There are costs, regardless what decision lawmakers make. “The consolidation of DHS headquarters functions is one of those unresolved issues. Congress and the department are operating in a different environment than when the consolidation plan was originally drawn up, both in terms of the security threats the nation faces and the budgetary situation. The Administration’s new proposal for St. Elizabeths may fit these new realities better than the existing plan. It is worth noting that any option Congress chooses—even an option to not make a decision on the long-term fate of the project—will bear significant costs. The costs manifest themselves as construction and move costs for a consolidated headquarters, continued rents for leases across the National Capital Region for maintaining existing headquarters facilities, or the possible (and more difficult to quantify) security, management, communications, logistics, and command and control impacts presented by both the status quo or any proposed change. Given the size of the department and the importance of its missions, how the DHS headquarters functions are housed and managed will be an issue of congressional interest for years to come.

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