White House’s Sequestration details due in one month — DorobekINSIDER 7 stories you need to know

The SEVEN stories that impact your life for Wednesday the 8th of July, 2012

  1. President Obama has signed a law requiring the administration to provide Congress with a list of sequester budget cuts. Should sequestration occur in January, the executive branch would need to make an immediate $110 billion reduction in 2013 spending. Politico says the deadline for making laying out the cuts: September 6 — yes, less than a month from now.
  2. Top Food and Drug Administration officials including Commissioner Margaret Hamburg knew the FDA was monitoring e-mail of scientists who had raised safety issues. The Wall Street Journal, quoting FDA officials and a letter the agency sent to Senate investigators, says the monitoring began in the spring of 2010 after proprietary information about companies’ medical devices was leaked to some media outlets. Lawmakers have objected to the email monitoring, saying it could have a chilling effect on agency officials who might need to report safety issues to Congress.
  3. The General Service Administration’s ethics program was approved by the White House just three days after the Public Building Service’s 2010 Western Region’s Conference in Las Vegas. The Washington Post says the president’s Office of Government Ethics found no problems with the agency’s financial disclosure procedures and ethics training between 2008 and 2009. A year later, Leigh Snyder, an ethics expert at the Office of Governmentwide Ethics, raised concerns about GSA’s history of controlling conflicts of interest.
  4. State Department employees working overseas are still subject to U.S. laws. For example, State is no longer allowed to force employees to retire at 65. The Wall Street Journal says John Miller Jr. worked as a safety inspector at the U.S. embassy in Paris until he was forced to retire in July 2007 — because he turned 65 years old. Miller sued the State Department alleging that his forced retirement violated federal employment provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The State Department argued that it was exempt from the U.S. discrimination law, because of another statute: The Basic Authorities Act, under which Miller was hired. But the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed ruling no such exemption exists.
  5. U.S. Postal Service executives are considering suspending contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System because the agency may run out of cash. Federal Times reports the USPS Inspector General found the agency could face a $100 million cash gap in mid-October, when it is supposed to reimburse the Labor Department $1.4 billion for workers’ compensation costs. The Postal Service tried to suspend contributions to FERS last year on the grounds that the agency had a $7 billion surplus with FERS, but it later paid up after the money became available.
  6. The Social Security Administration is offering early retirements to 9,000 employees. That’s nearly 14 percent of its workforce. Federal Times reports, anyone accepting the offer has until Sept. 30 to retire. It isn’t a buyout offer. To qualify, an employee must be at least 50 years old and have 20 years of service. Civil Service Retirement System employees must have served at least two years in a CSRS position before being eligible. The agency didn’t say how many employees it expects to take up the offer, or how many it wants to. But SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue has been cutting back hours at Social Security offices and ending overtime as he deals with budget cuts imposed by Congress.
  7. On GovLoop, there’s been some debate about creativity – or lack thereof – within the Government workforce. However, the Office of Personnel Management is taking a new approach to fostering innovation. OPM has brought (or bought) a piece of Silicon Valley into its Washington, D.C.-based headquarters. OPM has created an employee Innovation Lab, similar to that of a San Francisco Internet start up, within its age-old Government office building. What do you think? Will it work?

On today’s program

  • Disabilities… we talk about disabilities and we think of wheelchairs… or even Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprinter “Blade Runner” — “the fastest man on no legs.” But as Baby Boomers are aging, more and more people have to deal with disabilities. And we never forget about veterans. What is the government doing to be a good employer for everybody — including people with disabilities? We’re going to talk to Kathleen Martinez, the Labor Department’s Assistant Secretary for the Office of Disability Employment Policy.
  • And new rules from the Small Business Administration that will impact government and contractors. Insights about what they mean.
  • And in the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder — yes, we even try to help you get the most out of your water-cooler time — a FAQ on sequestration..

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