Countdown: State of the Union, government reorg, new DHS alert system

Today’s guests are:

Jonathan Breul’s stories
#3 Survey: Citizen satisfaction plunges
From Federal News Radio:

It probably won’t come as any surprise to federal employees that average citizens feel a little less kindly towards government than a year ago. Overall, satisfaction is down almost five percent in the Annual Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

The ACSI research scientist who co-authored the Federal Government report, Forrest Morgeson, told Federal News Radio that represents the largest single year decline since ACSI measurement began in 1994.


#2 Obama to propose major government reorganization
From Federal News Radio:

President Barack Obama doesn’t want just to reform how the government works like many of his predecessors. Rather, he plans to try to eliminate and reduce the overlap and redundancy that has built up over the last 60 years.

“In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America,” the President said during his State of the Union speech Tuesday night in Washington. “I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote – and we will push to get it passed.”

#1 Official: Obama to call for 5-year spending freeze
From Associated Press:

A White House official says President Barack Obama will call for a five-year freeze in non-security, discretionary spending during his State of the Union address.

The official says the proposal will be part of the president’s plans to reduce the deficit that he will outline in Tuesday’s primetime address. The official says Obama will also call for lawmakers to back a five-year plan put forth by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to save $78 billion in defense spending.

Obama is under pressure from the public and lawmakers to cut spending. Several Republican lawmakers have proposed cutting $100 billion from Obama’s budget for the current year.

Rich Cooper’s stories
#3 N.Y. Muslims fear congressman’s hearings could inflame Islamophobia
From Washington Post:

They called it a summit to teach Muslims how to fight prejudice and fear. But all day long, fear was inescapable in the fluorescent-lit meeting hall of the Long Island mosque.

The top issue on everyone’s mind this month at the Islamic Center of Long Island was this: What could be done to stop planned congressional hearings on alleged hidden radicalism among American Muslims and mosques?

The House hearings, scheduled to begin next month, have touched off a wave of panic throughout the U.S. Muslim community, which has spent much of the past year battling what it sees as a rising tide of Islamophobia. Conference calls, strategy sessions and letter-writing campaigns have been launched. Angry op-eds have compared the congressional inquiry to McCarthyism and the World War II persecution of Japanese Americans.

But for those who gathered at the Long Island mosque, the coming hearings represented not just a political issue, but a personal one. For the man organizing the hearings was the very lawmaker who was supposed to represent them in Washington – Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.). Long before he had become their enemy, he had been one of their community’s closest friends.

#2 Obama challenges the nation – and Republicans
From Washington Post:

President Obama and his party may have suffered a historic defeat in November’s midterm elections, but in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, he was anything but on the defensive.

His speech was most notable not for the nods he made to the changed political balance or the issues that cost the Democrats control of the House and that shaved their majority in the Senate – although he did do that.

More striking was his effort to frame the coming debates over spending and the role of government in ways that are designed to put Republicans on the defense as the fights begin. It was his latest effort to appeal to the center of the electorate.

#1 State of America’s Homeland Security Address
From Department of Homeland Security:

Because of the trust we have in Americans to share in our collective security, today I announce the end of the old system of color-coded alerts. In its place, we will implement a new system that is built on a clear and simple premise: When a threat develops that could impact you – the public – we will tell you. We will provide whatever information we can so you know how to protect yourselves, your families, and your communities.

Under the new, two-tiered system, DHS will coordinate with other Federal entities to issue formal, detailed alerts regarding information about a specific or credible terrorist threat. These alerts will include a clear statement that there is an “imminent threat” or “elevated threat.” The alerts also will provide a concise summary of the potential threat, information about actions being taken to ensure public safety, and recommended steps that individuals and communities can take.

The new system reflects the reality that we must always be on alert and be ready. When we have information about a specific, credible threat, we will issue a formal alert providing as much information as we can. Depending on the nature of the threat, the alert may be limited to a particular audience, like law enforcement, or a segment of the private sector, like shopping malls or hotels. Or, the alert may be issued more broadly to the American people, distributed – through a statement from DHS – by the news media and social media channels.