Sequester Day 3 – Plus the DorobekINSIDER’s 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • Budget cuts, scandals and travel restrictions have caused the General Service Administration to cancel their 2013 Expo. We talk with Larry Allen about the impacts of the cancelled conference. Click here for the full recap.

The DorobekINSIDER sequestration reader: Day 3

Unlike the government shutdowns during the Clinton years, nothing much seemed to happen.

And it is unclear if we much has changed. For example…

  • Politico: The age of austerity?: President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans are dug in on the sequester, and there are no signs of a quick fix to the $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts that both sides say they disdain.


  • The Washington Post: Deals to avert government shutdown likely, officials say: Congress returns to work this week with no plan to reverse across-the-board spending cuts that took effect Friday, but with hope on both sides of the aisle of averting an end-of-the-month showdown that could result in a government shutdown. The House plans to vote Thursday on a spending measure that would keep the government running after its current funding mechanism elapses March 27.
  • Federal News Radio reports, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is challenging agencies to come up with alternatives to sequestration. He says they should draft lists of programmatic spending cuts that would be less painful. And he wants a list of programs no longer necessary to the agencies’ missions. Issa wants agencies to comb reports from their inspectors general to find the waste. The departments of Transportation and Education inspectors general testify before the committee tomorrow. It’s the first in a series of hearings.

Of course, the Budget Act, which includes sequestration, does not give agencies the ability to cut specific projects. It specifically says that cuts are across the board.

Other sequestration reads:

While sequestration carries the threat of widespread furloughs of many federal employees, enactment of an alternative could amount to a case of pick your poison. Political leaders met Friday but failed, at least for now, to find a path away from budget cuts that threaten more than 1 million employees with up to 22 unpaid days off, for most starting as early as April. That failure shifts the focus to the next budget deadline of March 27, when temporary funding for the government runs out. A new measure could, in theory at least, provide partial or full relief from the sequestration. However, many of the options in circulation would hit federal employees in other ways.The White House recently cited a proposal from late 2012 when sequestration was threatened — before being delayed until today — as still on the table. That proposal, for example, lists $35 billion in savings from “reform federal retirement programs.”

That proposal does not give specifics, but the administration several times has proposed raising the required employee contribution to retirement by 1.2 percentage points, phased in over three years. The administration also has proposed ending a retirement supplement paid to some employees who retire before age 62, although effective only with those hired after a future date.

Sequester survivors: Sequestration will hit the federal government hard, but for some folks, it’s nothing to lose sleep over. Members of Congress, for instance, won’t see their salaries cut. The 1.4 million active-duty members of the armed forces won’t get furlough notices or pay cuts. Programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs and several public aid funds designed to help the neediest will survive untouched. Also exempt from the $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts: more than a dozen oversight boards, commissions and agencies funded outside the normal appropriations process, like the U.S. Postal Service. Other agencies, like the Peace Corps or Nuclear Regulatory Commission, might see some belt-tightening, but their employees won’t be furloughed.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. President Obama has nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the new director of the Office of Management and Budget. Burwell was the deputy budget director during the Clinton administration. The Washington Post reports Burwell will replace Jeffrey Zients. She will bring gender diversity as well as corporate experience to Obama’s inner circle at a time of budget battles with Congress.
  2. The President also nominated Gina McCarthy to serve as the administrator for the EPA. Politico reports, McCarthy brings bipartisan credentials to the job — including her past work as an environmental regulator under then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But for the past four years, she has headed EPA’s air regulation efforts, a bulwark of the Obama administration’s efforts to restrain climate-changing gases, toxic mercury from power plants and pollution from vehicles’ tailpipes.
  3. And the President has nominated MIT’s Ernest Moniz to be the new Energy Department Secretary. The Washington Post reports Moniz, served as associate director of the White House office of science and technology policy and was undersecretary of energy under President Bill Clinton, is also devoted to the “all-of-the-above” strategy for energy that Obama has embraced.
  4. The Washington Post reports, the Army private charged in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history pleaded guilty to 10 charges. In court Bradley Manning said he sought to spark a national debate about what he described as the nation’s obsession with “killing and capturing people.”
  5. Federal Times reports, the House next week will vote on a spending bill that would fund the military for the remainder of fiscal 2013, according to House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry. The Texas Republican told reporters Friday that the chamber will take up a 2013 defense appropriations bill that would give the Pentagon some fiscal maneuverability.
  6. Close to 100,000 federal employees will telework from home – or perhaps their favorite Wi-Fi hotspot – for at least a day during the newly rebranded Mobile Work Exchange’s Telework Week. You can check out my interview with Cisco’s Dan Kent.
  7. And on GovLoop, if you missed the Virtual Career Fair last Thursday, you can check out the archive here.

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • You’ve heard of sequestration. In Washington, we are gearing up for snowquestration — the first real snowstorm in years. In fact, DC meteorologist Steve Rudin notes that the last time 1″ or more of snow fell on a calendar day at Reagan National Airport was January 26, 2011 – 768 days ago. This is the longest span on record without an inch of snow for Washington D.C. (official snowfall records for DC go back to 1884). The previous longest stretch was 700 days from February 5, 1975 to January 4, 1977. (From National Weather Service Sterling)
  • The Strange Behavioral Logic of the Sequester Stalemate. Behavioral science research can help explain the reasons behind the current stalemate. We know from hundreds of research studies that goals do motivate people: specific, difficult goals make people strive harder to accomplish what they set out to do. One example, ironically, comes from government: In 1961, president John F. Kennedy gave a speech that set the goal of getting people to the moon and safely back within a decade. At the time, the U.S. had only launched an astronaut 115 miles above the earth. Going to the moon was a much more difficult goal: astronauts would travel 270,000 miles from home. Of course, you know the rest of the story: less than 10 years later, the U.S. landed on the moon.

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