Washington freezes, San Diego sneezes

“Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. Except the Office of Personnel Management.”

Actually, Mark Twain left out the OPM reference when he made that famous statement. Mainly because it didn’t exist. But he probably would have cited the same had he known how things would turn out. Because, in 21st-century America …

When it snows in the D.C. area, federal workers in San Francisco suffer from chills. When we have an ice storm in the sprawling 5.8 million person Washington metro area that includes portions of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and D.C., feds in Austin and Kansas City get goose bumps. When air conditioners here fail in August and workers are sent home, their colleagues in Houston say you’ve-got-to-be-kidding!

The thing is that D.C. is different. In lots of ways. But you probably suspected that. For one, the largest concentration of feds in the nation is within a stone’s throw of the Beltway. Also, there are feds working all over our mid-Atlantic region. Some on the Chesapeake Bay, others in emergency presidential hideouts mostly within 85 miles of the White House.


For years the government has tried, generally without success, to figure out what to do — winter or summer — when we have a major weather or man-made event here. OPM directors were blasted if they released feds early because of bad weather, or if they made them stay put until normal closing time. One almost lost her job when the D.C. area was hit with a weather emergency while she was on a political campaign trip.

A year ago this month, OPM made national news — and generally got into hot water — for releasing employees early because of a blizzard. Typical of the beyond-the-beltway criticism was this report from the Seattle Times.

The new (2012) OPM policy for the D.C. area got its first test this week when it announced on Sunday — via e-mail, Twitter and through the media — a delayed arrival (until 11 a.m.) on Monday. That Sunday alert prompted the following before-the-event comment:

  • “We did it again — those poor dumb contractors are going to work tomorrow and we are getting off because of a forecast. OK, 2 hours but I will be telecommuting again tomorrow but I don’t have a computer — but that doesn’t make a difference. Damn are we good — another day OFF based on a forecast — and you know how good the weather forecasts are” ” Life Is Good As A Lazy Fed

Here are some follow-up comment from Seattle- and Atlanta-based feds:

  • ” 1. We in Atlanta are in no position to laugh at D.C.’s reaction to weather. People laugh at us every time we close for a one-inch snow. (In fairness it is usually one inch of ice on the roads that causes the problems.) 2. The best line regarding our memories of the past may be from a Steve Martin song: “…memories of things that never were become the good old days.” Larry

And from Seattle this comment:

  • ” Seattle got dumped on like not since 1940 last week. It is very hilly and instead of some creek like D.C. has (the Potomac?), Seattle has big water to stop the sliding Ideite (someone from Idaho) from hitting anything really solid. Some Idiot on the other hand, forgot to close most of three states to federal workers driving last week in the N.W. I wonder if any of them that got hit by some D.C. implant can sue OPM.” Deployed Decoy

Jaws is coming and you’re the bait!

Federal pay and benefits continue to be on the congressional hit list. A joint Senate-House conference committee is considering a variety of ways to save money, including an extended pay freeze and changes in the federal retirement program

Today at 10 a.m. on our Your Turn radio show I’ll be talking with Federal Times senior writer Sean Reilly and federal benefits expert Tammy Flanagan about what’s on the chopping block and the impact it would have on your pay and retirement benefits. If you have questions or comments email me at mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


By Jack Moore

Iran’s morality police have cracked down on Barbie “to protect the public from what they see as pernicious western culture eroding Islamic values,” Reuters reported. Merchants have been pushed to sell “officially approved dolls,” such as Sara, clothed in a head covering and loose garb and her twin brother, Dara. However, an Iranian mother said her daughter prefers Barbie because “Sara and Dara are ugly and fat.”


OPM: Fixing retirement backlog ‘vitally important’
OPM has received more than 15,000 new retirement applications this month – more than double its normal load. The Office of Personnel Management tells Federal News Radio what it’s doing to help clear its overwhelming backlog.

Payroll tax negotiations reopen – will federal pay and benefits be on the table?
Negotiations to renew a payroll tax cut for 160 million workers and jobless benefits for millions more kicked off on Capitol Hill Tuesday. But how they will be paid for is still up for debate.

OPM to extend viewpoint survey to all feds
1.8 million feds will be able to offer input on how their agencies should be run. The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey is being opened to all feds this year.

Census launches new user-friendly website
You’re probably no stranger to information overload, but imagine dealing with 250 billion data cells. The Census Bureau has done that, with its new AmericanFactFinder database. The agency has moved a large cache of files from a legacy system into a new setup.