Snow Stopped but Fallout Continues

The fallout from any government decision to close (or not) operations in the Washington area always lasts a lot longer than the snow itself.

The DC/East Coast blizzard was a December record for us. Though a mere dusting (as we are oft reminded) to hardier folk from Chicago, Denver and Fairbanks. But it provides full employment for plow-truck drivers, reporters and others who live for bad weather. So it’s little wonder that this recent “blizzard” has brought in comments from all points.

One caller wanted to know what a snow-day shutdown costs the government. My guess is that you could pick a figure, with any number of zeroes, and be able to find some politician or statistician who would defend it. And some reporter who would, if it was outrageous enough, use it as gospel.

Advertisement

Part of the problem is what does one measure? Wages paid for work not performed? Lost productivity? How about the savings by avoiding gas-guzzling gridlocks, safety issues, etc. etc. My guess would be that it is somewhere between a cost to the taxpayers of $1.3 billion to a savings to taxpayers of several bajillion dollars. That’s a ballpark figure, of course.

Good luck with that one!

We also have a little I-95 rivalry going on between Washington and Baltimore. Social Security Administration employees are going to get the full day off on Thursday. Feds here will get half a day off. But while the government shut down non-emergency operations here Monday, civil servants in Baltimore carried on as per usual. To which an SSA worker in Baltimore (Woodlawn) speculated “our new building manager…came to us from Region 10. The Alaska Region. This last snow fall to him was a mere dusting!”

Mush!

In yesterday’s column, a fed noted the problem that a government shutdown creates for on-site contractors. Most are forced to take the time off, but without pay. As Georgia-based reader Paul Davison put it:

We don’t specify the terms of employment between a contractor and its employees, so we don’t have any say in whether the employees get paid for unscheduled “down times”. We often forget that contractor employees aren’t government employees. We shouldn’t be trying to supervise them or control their leaves or (with limited exceptions covered by statutes) set their pay and benefits.

Al K. says we should all take a deep breath and relax.

People who complain about not getting enough time off should read/watch Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Bob Cratchett was fortunate if he got ONE day off a year with pay. I wonder what he would think of people who get 26 days annual, 13 days of sick leave, and 10 holidays plus Christmas Eve.

Humbug!

Then there is Roxanne who works in the real world beyond the beltway. Her comment:

Mike, Tell Washington to take another day off!!! With senior leadership nowhere around we had to rely on ourselves for supervision and guidance. Guess what? We got a helluva lot done!!!

Finally, this comment from a fed in northeast Maryland:

I read your article and needed someone to write to. I work at Aberdeen Proving Ground. It did not close Monday when all the other governmental offices closed. And I got charged leave even though there was snow and black ice in the parking lot of my apartment complex and my car got stuck. Unhappy at APG.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

From LiveScience’s 8 Tips for a Green Christmas, we could all take some “pity on Mother Nature while celebrating Father Christmas”. Three of the tips: “Stay home”, “Lower the thermostat”, and “Lose the lights.” So if you need me, I’ll be in the basement.


OTHER PAY & BENEFITS NEWS
Federal workforce issues 2009: what’s worked and what hasn’t
A look back on the year for the federal workforce with John Palguta, Vice President for Policy at the Partnership for Public Service.

FAA reminds employees to act with decorum
The Federal Aviation Administration is reminding its employees to behave with decorum after hidden television news cameras filmed FAA employees partying while they were in Atlanta for a $5 million training program.

Bidding war brewing to recruit computer security experts
Demand is so intense that it has “sparked a bidding war among agencies and contractors for a small pool of special talent: skilled technicians with security clearances. Their scarcity is driving up salaries, depriving agencies of skills, and in some cases affecting project quality,” reports the Washington Post. For more, click here.

ALSO ON FEDERAL NEWS RADIO
New Cybersecurity Coordinator no babe in the woods
President Obama has tapped a corporate cyber security expert and former Bush administration official to lead the effort to shore up the country’s computer networks and better coordinate with companies that operate 80 percent of those critical systems. The White House touts Howard A. Schmidt as someone with “some forty years of experience in government, business and law enforcement.”

Analysis: Cybersecurity Coordinator faces many challenges, opportunities
For analysis on the position itself and what Schmidt is facing, we turn to two cyber experts — Karen Evans, former administrator of e-government and information technology at the Office of Management and Budget; and Randy Sabett, a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, where he is a member of the Internet, Communications & Data Protection Practice. Sabett also served on the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency.

Capitol Hill: Wait and see on cybersecurity coordinator
From Capitol Hill, most, but not all, lawmakers have generally good reviews for President Obama’s pick to be cybersecurity coordinator.