Sequestration Doomed for March? Plus the DorobekINSIDER’s 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • RFP-EZ is one of the Presidential Innovation Fellows projects. It just wrapped up. So how did it go? Was it a success? How was it received? We talk to Clay Johnson. Click here for the full recap.

But up front: Sequestration, yes, I know, we are all sick of it, but…

There seems to be growing consensus that parties may just let sequestration come into effect in March.

Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate interviewed on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, said that Republicans are not interested in shutting the government down, but that cuts would be imposed on March 1.

The Wall Street Journal today says lawmakers generally think sequestration is going through.

“Congressional leaders sound increasingly resigned to the possibility that across-the-board government spending cuts could start taking effect on March 1, as scheduled, and continue for at least a few weeks. There is no publicly known congressional action under way to try to defer, replace or avoid the budget cuts.”

The question, of course, is… will sequestration work? Will it bring down the deficit/debt? And — for those of us who focus on ‘helping the government do its job better’ — will it help the government do it’s job better?

The Washington Post today writes about the threat of sequestration to agencies:

The drastic $85 billion in automatic spending cuts Congress approved in hopes of heading off another deficit showdown may or may not occur, but federal agencies say the threat has been disrupting government for months as officials take costly and inefficient steps to prepare. A National Weather Service official is planning to shut down radars on sunny days in the South — and crossing his fingers that no unexpected storms pass through. New federal grants for medical research are being postponed, resulting in layoffs now and costly paperwork later. And military leaders, who are delaying training for active and reserve forces, are trying to negotiate millions of dollars in penalties that the Defense Department is incurring from canceled contracts.

The Post’s Ezra Klein says that Republicans think the sequester gives them leverage. “They’re wrong,” he says.

On the other side, Jeff Bergner, an adjunct professor at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., has served as a congressional staffer and as an assistant secretary of state, writing in the Wall Street Journal, makes the case for the across-the-board budget cuts.

“You know the cliche: America’s fiscal condition might be grim, but lawmakers should avoid the ‘meat ax’ of across-the-board spending cuts and instead use the ‘scalpel’ of targeted reductions. The problem with this argument is that, given today’s politics, it is nonsensical…The most likely way to achieve significant reductions in spending is by across-the-board cuts.”

Claims to support a ‘scalpel’ over a ‘meat ax’ become excuses for doing nothing.

My frustration is sequestration generally leaves government doing more with less — with no reduction in expectations… or duties… or responsibilities. Essentially what our so-called leaders are saying is that the government is going to continue doing everything that it has been doing, but somehow it is going to cost less.

To me, the question is what is inherently government. What is the role of government? What should it do — and what should government not do? If there is something the government should do, let’s give it our all — the people, the money, the focus, the energy… and let’s get it done. It’s time to make real choices… and then empower people to succeed rather than beating them over the head with overblown claims of lack of accountability or oversight.

Other items worth reading:

NYTImes: Pentagon Expanding Cybersecurity Force to Protect Networks Against Attacks

And TechPresident notes that cyber-security was a significant issue for Secretary of State-designate John Kerry

At his confirmation hearing Thursday, Secretary of State-designate John Kerry addressed how he views Internet-based threats, echoing comments made by current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the day before at a House hearing on the Benghazi incident.

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Kerry to describe the “most serious threat facing us today” in terms of cybersecurity.

Kerry responded that much of the information about those threats is classified. Then he continued:

“But every day, while we sit here right now, certain countries are attacking our systems. They are trying to hack in to classified information, to various agencies of our government, to banking structures. Money has been stolen from accounts and moved in large sums from entities,” he said. “I mean, there’s a long list of grievances with respect to what this marvel of the Internet and — and the technology age has brought us. But it’s threatening. It is threatening to our power grid. It’s threatening to our communications. It’s threatening, therefore, to our capacity to respond.”

Calling it the “21st century nuclear weapons equivalent,” he said the threat would require “cyber-diplomacy and cyber-negotiations.” He went on to say that it would require balancing the values and interests of the United States and other countries to find common ground, but that he did not have a “magic silver bullet” to address the issue.

And the Wall Street Journal: What Obama’s new cabinet means: Republicans Bristle at Obama’s New Roster
President’s Second-Term Team of Like-Minded Allies Draws Complaints From Some Who See Little Room for Compromise.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. President Obama has named Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough as his new chief of staff. The Washington Post reports, McDonough, 43, replaced Jack Lew, whom Obama has nominated to run the Treasury Department. White House officials said Tony Blinken, a national security adviser to Vice President Biden, would replace McDonough as the No. 2 official on the National Security Council. Obama also named Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco to replace Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan, who has been nominated to lead the CIA.
  2. Washington Post reports, President Obama exceeded his constitutional authority by making appointments when the Senate was on a break last year. A federal appeals court ruled Friday. The court’s broad ruling would sharply limit the power that presidents throughout history have used to make recess appointments in the face of Senate opposition and inaction. A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit flatly rejected the Obama administration’s rationale for appointing three members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while the Senate was on a holiday break.
  3. A report published this week by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) examines government spending transparency, grading 30 cities on how well “checkbook-level” information is presented online. The study – the first of its kind assessing local government transparency – found some cities lag far behind others. The PIRG report lauded New York City’s “My Money NYC” Web portal, which re-launched this week with dashboards for more than 100 agencies. Chicago, San Francisco and Cincinnati all topped the list.
  4. The Wall Street Journal says the Navy, Air Force and Navy all have announced plans to terminate thousands of temporary workers in the first tangible retrenchment moves following months of threats and warnings. The steps described Friday by Pentagon officials could idle many of the Defense Department’s 43,000 short-term employees in the coming months. Along with the layoffs, the military is enacting broad hiring freezes, plane and ship maintenance cutbacks and travel restrictions.
  5. John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, was sentenced Friday to 30-months in prison after pleading guilty in October for leaking classified information to the press. The LA Times says the 14-year CIA veteran named an undercover agent off the record in an interview with a journalist in 2009. Kiriakou’s lawyers portrayed him as an upstanding citizen who exposed CIA torture of detainees in secret prisons, but the courts were not convinced. The judge in the case said Kiriakou had damaged the agency and even called his sentence, the result of a plea deal, “way too light.” He is the first person in 27 years to be sentenced under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982.
  6. Federal News Radio reports, the National Archives is celebrating a milestone in its effort to publish millions of old, formerly classified records. Its National Declassification Center says it finally has sorted out every single leaf in its 90-million-page backlog. Not all of them have been read top to bottom, but at least they’re in the right queue. The center’s director says staff have worked overtime, cracking open dusty boxes and deciphering tons of nearly illegible notes. Their work is far from done. They still have to go through about 100 million pages looking for information on nuclear weapons.
  7. And on GovLoop, are you looking for a government job? Want secrets to success from C-Level people? Come to our Virtual Career Fair on February 28th. It’s free. You can register here.

The DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • A Pep Talk from Kid President to You

  • USATODAY: Study: Nearly half are overqualified for their jobs. Nearly half of working Americans with college degrees are in jobs for which they’re overqualified, a new study out Monday suggests. The study, released by the non-profit Center for College Affordability and Productivity, says the trend is likely to continue for newly minted college graduates over the next decade. “It is almost the new normal,” says lead author Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist and founder of the center, based in Washington. The number of Americans whose highest academic degree was a bachelor’s grew 25% to 41 million from 2002 to 2012, statistics released last week from the U.S. Census Bureau show. The number with associate’s degrees increased 31%, while the number of Americans for whom the highest level of education attainment was a master’s or doctorate degree grew fastest of all — 45% and 43%, respectively.

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