Last week I asked a friend, a retired CIA-State Department specialist on Asia, how she thought the situation with North Korea would play out.
I wanted a been-there-done-that insiders take on the odds that what’s-his-name would deliver on his threat to nuke Austin, Texas, or whether we would blink and give them humanitarian aid again?
She thought for a minute and said she would wait for the movie to see how things turn out. Like the Far East version of Argo.
It could well be that many federal workers have the same thoughts about sequestration, furloughs and whatever’s next . They are waiting for the movie.
When the White House and Congress first laid the sequestration threat upon the nation, most people outside the Beltway didn’t pay any attention. Maybe for good reason because both sides said it was such a stupid, horrible concept it would never happen. Of course it did and has.
Up to a point.
For most executive branch federal agencies, furloughs are still in the future. Agencies that originally warned of payless paydays in April have managed to delay them. Furloughs are no joke. They represent a 20 percent pay cut. Extended furloughs could ruin some employees. Even so…
Few people paid any attention to furlough threats until Defense announced that it would furlough virtually all of its 700,000 plus civilians for 22 days. At least. That got the attention of merchants in communities where DoD is the cash cow. A month of furloughs, even staggered, would put the hurt on lots of places.
Congress approved limited funding for a number of federal operations, including Defense, the largest federal agency. Defense (as some had predicted) then reduced the number of furlough days to 14. Still a lot, but not 22!
Defense also indicated that the total number of employees who are furloughed might be less than originally planned.
Last week, the Associated Press said DoD was looking for ways to reduce the number of furlough days to 7. Still a lot, but not 14!
Although Defense appears to be doing its best to avoid, minimize or delay furloughs, some contractors have begun them. Not because they have to do it, according to their employees, but simply as a way to save salary money while passing the blame on to Washington.
The only major federal operation that has implemented furloughs to date appears to be the Judicial branch. Some courts began furloughing workers, like public defenders, on Fridays. At a time when alleged terrorists and illegal immigrants are in the news, those furloughs are getting a lot of media attention.
Some current and former court employees have a different take on the need for furloughs. As one put it, the Friday furloughs amount to “fiddling with noncompliance with the Speedy Trial Act in trying to make a political point. We have morphed into an age when doing what’s best for your country is second to doing what bring the most ca$h into your agency. If the legal community was really concerned with providing defender services, without furloughs, cutting the significant cost of making the court record could be done on a digital audio recording format and save millions of dollars…”
Many other feds have made the point that their agencies could make significant savings if sequestration allowed them to be selective. And if they wanted to avoid furloughs or at least the threat of them.
How much will the chained CPI cost retired feds? President Barack Obama’s proposal to change the way retirees’ cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) are calculated has drawn the ire of federal-employee groups and unions. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) has released a calculator designed to show retirees and policymakers how benefits would be reduced if the chained CPI were implemented.
Tips, techniques to write in plain language Agencies have made strides in writing federal documents in a simpler and more straightforward way. Contractors and the public slowly are finding it easier to understand their writing. But even in the more than two years since Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the Plain Language Writing Act of 2010, there are some simple steps agencies can take to address the long-standing challenge of writing in plain language.