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What you missed in August – Plus the DorobekINSIDER’s 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

But first…

It is welcome back Tuesday — the first Tuesday in September when we all shrug off August and get back to work — really get back to work. And that includes the DorobekINSIDER. Chris Dorobek was away with his family for a good part of August.

Was there anything that mattered in August?

Below, we’ll have the seven stories that impact government for today, but… here are five big topics that happened in August that will impact your September… and beyond:

  1. Bracing for budget battle number… oh, who is really counting anymore: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has announced that the government’s borrowing ability will max out by mid October and that as a result, a new debt ceiling will have to be negotiated in Congress. The Government Executive reports that congressmen have already begun to prepare proposals for these upcoming negotiations.
  2. Stan Collender, a partner Qorvis Communications, founder of Capital Gains & Games blog, author of The Guide To the Federal Budget, writes: I’m calling the end of this year’s debate two things: budget bedlam and “#cliffgate.” No matter which name you use, it will begin when Congress returns to Washington next week. There will be only 9 legislative days before fiscal 2014 starts on October 1. Approximately 15 calendar (but no more than 10 legislative) days later, the Treasury says the government will not have the cash it needs to pay all its bills. At that point either the federal debt ceiling will have to be raised so the government may borrow more or a technical or actual default will occur.
  3. Janet Napolitano officially stepped down as Homeland Security Secretary in a speech at the National Press Club. Napolitano led the department for over four years, through emergencies from the Boston Marathon Bombings to Hurricane Sandy, notes The Washington Post. Napolitano said she sought to improve adaptability and local partnerships during her time at the agency. She advised her successor to prepare for cyber security threats and to be armed “with a large bottle of Advil.” (Read her remarks here.)
  4. Are you speaking my language? How to become bureaucratically multi-cultural.“Today the big issues facing our government do not fall neatly into one agency’s mission. Food safety laws for example are regulated by 15 different agencies and teams. In order to find real solutions we need an enterprise approach,” said Ron Sanders. But the problem is government doesn’t collaboration very effectively or easily. Sanders is a Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton and served as the US Intelligence Community’s (IC) Associate Director of National Intelligence and first chief human capital officer. Booz Allen Hamilton and the Partnership for Public Service teamed up to create, Building the Enterprise: Nine Strategies for a More Integrated, Effective Government. The goal was simple, create strategies to build an enterprise infrastructure so government could collaborate more effectively.
  5. More USPS woes: The U.S. Postal Service reported a net loss of $740 million for the third quarter of fiscal 2013. Not much new here other then the fact that USPS seems to continue its not-so-slow slide and nobody seems to be able to actually do anything.
  6. Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com fame bought The Washington Post: The story is not government related specifically, of course, but as anybody in government recognizes, the media matters — if for no other reason then setting the agenda. And few papers matter more to government then The Washington Post. (Anybody in government for more than five minutes has heard the horrible phrase: ‘Don’t do anything that appears on the front page of The Washington Post.’) Bezos bought the paper for $250 million. Many are asking why, but Bezos has a history of changing the way things have always been done.
  7. From today’s WP: Jeffrey Bezos, Washington Post’s next owner, aims for a new ‘golden era’ at the newspaper: Jeffrey P. Bezos, the next owner of The Washington Post, says he doesn’t have all the answers for what’s ailing the newspaper industry or for the financially challenged news organization he is preparing to buy. But he says he’s eager to start asking questions and conducting experiments in the quest for a new “golden era” at The Post. In his first interview since his $250 million purchase of The Post was announced in early August, Bezos said his basic approach to operating the business will be similar to the philosophy that has guided him in building Amazon.com from a start-up in 1995 to an Internet colossus with $61 billion in sales last year. “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient,” he said. “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too.”

The SEVEN stories that impact your life:

  1. President Obama has issued an executive order to raise federal workers’ wages by 1 percent. This pay increase would take place starting January 1, 2014. Federal Times reports, however, that this 1 percent increase is not guaranteed. Congress, especially the House, has the ability to override the executive order, providing an even larger pay increase or no increase at all.

  2. Federal travel per diems are increasing for the 2014 fiscal year by 1.9 percent. The increase will take effect on October 1, 2013, but will still be about 5 percent lower than the average market rate. Furthermore, as the Federal Times reports, per diem rates are not increasing everywhere, with rates for the popular Washington, DC area expected to fall in 2014.

  3. Navy Secretary, Ray Mabus, has chosen Andrew Traver, an ATF employee and former naval officer, to be the new director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The Federal Times notes that in 2010 and 2011, Traver was nominated by President Obama to lead the ATF, but had his Senate confirmation blocked by opposition among members of the NRA. Traver will not have to be confirmed to assume the director position at NCIS and will finish his work at ATF before transferring to the new organization.

  4. The Air Force and Army have decided to share the same IT network structure in an attempt to reach common standards across military services and save money. The Air Force, specifically, will save $1.2 billion in planned network upgrades by making use of the Army’s IT network structure. Federal News Radio reports that the Army uses a multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) router system that enables data to move from one point to the next more quickly and efficiently.

  5. The U.S. Postal Service has announced that it will soon be adding leased vehicles to its fleet due to a lack of funds preventing the organization from purchasing new vans and trucks. As the Government Executive observes, this is the organization’s solution for addressing the agency’s need to refurbish and replace many of the vehicles in its “aging delivery fleet.”

  6. Syrian hackers allegedly broke into the Marine Corps’ recruitment site on Labor Day, redirecting visitors to the site to a page urging them not to strike against Syria. In response, the Defense Department is reaching out to contractors to assist the organization in strengthening its domain name system. NextGov reports that contractors have until Friday to inform the Department of their qualifications for the potential contract.

  7. Adding to regulations set forth by OPM in 2005, the Obama administration wishes to require federal employees to provide proof of religious holidays in order to take compensatory time off. The Government Executive notes that the administration also desires to extend the amount of time that employees have to make up these hours from the previously required six weeks to a year. If implemented, this new statute would allow employees to execute their overtime hours up to one year before or after any planned absence for religious reasons.

The DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • The Black Budget Is Bigger Than Head Start, Justice and the Park Service Combined

  • Google crunches data on munching in office — Last year Google had an M&M problem. So as it does with most dilemmas, the Internet giant put its data wizards into action. Employees were eating too much of the free candy and that, the firm surmised, might hinder efforts to keep workers healthy and happy. So in what could be called Project M&M, a special ops force of behavioral science PhDs conducted surveys of snacking patterns, collected data on the proximity of M&M bins to any given employee, consulted academic papers on food psychology, and launched an experiment. What if the company kept the chocolates hidden in opaque containers but prominently displayed dried figs, pistachios and other healthful snacks in glass jars? The results: In the New York office alone, employees consumed 3.1million fewer calories from M&Ms over seven weeks. That’s a decrease of nine vending machine-size packages of M&Ms for each of the office’s 2,000 employees.

  • Digital detox for ’Net junkies: A Pennsylvania hospital will soon become the nation’s first to offer an inpatient program for Internet addicts. Behavioral Health Services at the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Bradford, Pa., will launch a 10-day, $14,000 rehab program a week from today. “Internet addiction is a problem in this country . . . that can be more pervasive than alcoholism,’’ Kimberly Young, the psychologist who founded the nonprofit program, told Fox News.

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