Sequestration’s hardball, take-no-prisoners furlough policy appears to be slowly but surely fading, as politicians realize that some government operations are, in fact, rather vital. Air traffic controllers, meat and poultry inspectors and FBI agents — to name a few — are the kind of people we miss when they are not around.
Defense — the largest and most visible federal department — was first to announce a tough furlough lineup. It said that virtually all of its nearly 800,000 civilian employees, except for some political appointees that are exempt, would be furloughed 22 days between March and October. Many temps and noncareer employees were laid off, and many contractors were furloughed. A nervous Congress pumped some extra funds into Defense which is now looking at 14 furlough days. Possibly fewer than that.
The political-military situation with North Korea, in central Africa and (as always) the Middle East is making a lot of people nervous. As a result, the Associated Press reports that the White House budget office (OMB) has re-crunched some numbers “freeing up” about $4 billion for Defense and another $1 billion for others, such as the Department of Homeland Security and NASA.
Meantime, the Office of Personnel Management has ever-so-slightly eased some furlough guideline rules that may make it possible for furloughed employees to substitute annual leave for some furlough days, in some situations. Like most complex federal personnel decisions this change, first reported by Government Executive, requires the same kind of interpretation as in those how-many-angels-can-dance-on-a-pin-head debates.
The furlough makeover may spare some employees, who haven’t been furloughed yet, from losing a days’ pay. More agencies may reduce the number of announced furlough days or cancel them altogether. But that will be of little comfort to people who already have taken their 20 percent pay hit, or to insiders who know first-hand how the sequestration process has taken time from other projects and further reduced employee morale which was scraping bottom before the “S” (sequestration) hit the fan.
The tardigrade (also known as a “water bear”) is considered the toughest creature on Earth. The tiny critters (about the size of a grain of sand) are able to survive in the most extreme of environments due to cryptobiosis, the ability to halt the metabolic process, losing as much as 99 percent of the moisture in their bodies. The creatures reanimate when they run into water again.
Agencies search for ways to keep mid-career feds Mid-career employees are a scarcity in government. While agencies are awash with employees at the early career stage and those with 20-plus years of federal service, there aren’t enough in the middle stages, and that has federal managers worried. Agencies like EPA and HUD are taking matters into their own hands. Both are launching new efforts aimed at keeping mid-career feds from leaving government for the private sector.