VA Wrongly Sent Sequestration Cut Letters — DorobekINSIDER’s 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • Leadership lessons from successful federal leaders. The Partnership for Public Service has sat down with the Service to America Medal winners to find out what leadership tactics work and which ones don’t. Click here for the full recap.
  • Sequestration 101 — how many of you actually know what happens if sequestration goes through. I know I didn’t have a deep understanding. We go line by line with Todd Harrison from the Center for Budgetary Assessments. Trust us, it’s information you will want to know. Click here for the full recap.

But up Front

While the pay freeze just got extended, there is now a group calling for a pay increase.

Federal Times reports that a panel of experts has issued a report recommending that the federal government scrap the General Schedule across-the-board increases in return for more flexibility to boost salaries within grades. The goal: To close pay gaps between federal and private sector workers.

The report by National Academy of Public Administration and the American Society for Public Administration found that lower-tier federal workers tend to be overpaid in comparison with their private-sector counterparts, while the reverse is true for employees higher up the ladder. The two groups are producing a series of reports, called Memos to National Leaders, aimed at the next presidential administration on what government reforms are needed.
The proposed changes would give the Federal Salary Council and the President’s Pay Agent the ability to “strategically target” pay increases to the GS grade levels found to be furthest below the private-sector labor market, the report said.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is actually looking at what he would do if he were to win the November election. Politico reports the effort, billed “The Readiness Project,” is being led by former Bush Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, a former Utah governor who is expected to play a senior role in any Romney White House.

“The GOP presidential candidate’s Washington team is intensifying its efforts, moving into official office space and holding meetings on Capitol Hill. The team has also begun reaching out to K Streeters and former Republican administration officials to get guidance on the Senate confirmation process and recommendations for jobs in a possible Romney White House,” Politico reports.

Federal Times says that a Romney win would likely bring about more outsourcing and privatization.

Election day is now just 40 days away.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life for Wednesday

  1. The Veterans Affairs Department mistakenly sent letters to about 6,000 caregivers of wounded veterans indicating that sequestration would cut off their monthly stipends, Military.com reports. VA spokesman Josh Taylor says the VA has contacted all the caregivers who received the notifications and informed them that their stipends are not in danger. One caregiver said she was told caregivers received the letters because the VA categorizes them as “contractors.”
  2. Federal Times reports, President Obama signed an order Tuesday giving agencies authority to investigate, suspend and debar contractors for human trafficking. FT says agencies currently rely on contractors to self-police and report human trafficking activity to contracting officers. Investigations by government watchdogs such as the Project on Government Oversight and the Commission on Wartime Contracting have found recurrent human trafficking problems by “labor brokers” or subcontractors of war-zone contractors.
  3. The Obama administration is ahead of schedule on its plan to reduce consulting contracts. The Washington Post reports, federal awards for consulting totaled $13.1 billion in the first half of fiscal 2012, a 28 percent decline from the same period in fiscal 2010. The administration last year set a goal of reducing spending on consultants by 15 percent in the year ending Sept. 30, compared with 2010 levels. Despite increases in Pentagon spending over the past decade, the top contractors haven’t changed markedly, according to research by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ defense-industrial initiatives group.
  4. The lead author of a failed cybersecurity bill in the Senate, Senator Joe Lieberman, is urging President Obama to use his “executive authority to the maximum extent possible” to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyberattacks–including giving regulators the authority to make new security standards mandatory. The Hill reports, Lieberman called on the president to direct the Department of Homeland Security to identify security vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure and create voluntary cybersecurity standards for companies operating this infrastructure to follow. Lieberman also argued that the president should give regulatory agencies the authority to adopt the cybersecurity standards developed by DHS as new mandates for companies to meet — a move that would stoke the ire of business lobbying groups.
  5. Congress passed a bill cracking down on the use of agency credit cards. Federal News Radio says the measure requires agencies to do a credit check on prospective cardholders, maintain detailed records, limit the number of cards issued and set policies on credit limits. Senate sponsors said one General Services Administration worker racked up tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses on a government purchase card. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said feds have used the cards to buy kitchen appliances, jewelry and cruises. He singled out the departments of Defense and Housing and Urban Development, the Forest Service and the Federal Aviation Administration for management problems.
  6. Auditors want the Internal Revenue Service to rearrange its offices. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said there were savings to be found in maximizing empty cubicles. It said the IRS will complete 66 space consolidation and relocation projects by the end of this month for about $4 million in savings this fiscal year. Federal News Radio reports the agency needed to finalize an agreement with its union quickly so that teleworking employees can start sharing workstations. In response, the IRS said just hold your horses. That agreement will begin next month.
  7. And on GovLoop, have you seen our new Path to PMF guide. The interactive website and guide designed to support prospective PMF applicants. Through 100% free online and downloadable resources (no, there is no catch!), the site pulls together insights from more than 60 current and former PMFs, 10 career advisors and agency program coordinators with blogs, videos and discussion forums that help prospective PMF applicants gain information and assistance to navigate every stage of the prestigious PMF application process. Check it out.

A few items from the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • Could you crowdsource laws? That’s one idea floating around in Finland. Gigaom says the Finnish government enabled something called a “citizens’ initiative”, through which registered voters can come up with new laws – if they can get 50,000 of their fellow citizens to back them up within six months, then the Eduskunta (the Finnish parliament) is forced to vote on the proposal.
  • The National Park Service has announced that a contractor has been chosen for the $15 million project of repairing the damage the Washington Monument sustained after last year’s earthquake, WJLA reports. The 555-foot-tall obelisk has been closed to the public since a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit in August 2011. It will likely be closed for repairs until 2014.
  • California legalizes self-driving cars. Slate says, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill legalizing autonomous vehicles on the state’s roadways. The allows Google to test out its self-driving car in the state immediately, provided there’s a licensed driver in the driver’s seat to take over if needed, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. (In fact, Google was already testing its cars in the state, on the assumption that it was legal as long as there was no law specifically prohibiting it. But now it’s definitely legal.) And it paves the way for manufacturers to begin selling autonomous cars to consumers by January 2015.

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