On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:
Have you ever sat down to read a Congressional bill? Probably not. They are difficult to understand, use bureaucratic language and are generally unreadable. So it's no wonder that most of us don't have the inclination to pick up a bill and read through it. But this lack of understanding is creating a void between the public and politicians.
But up front:
The return of the lawmakers. Yes, Congress returns to session today -- with much on the to-do list and few days to get it done. It will be especially challenging with the Syria situation sucking up pretty much all of the oxygen.
- Federal News Radio: Congress' to-do list crowded with budget headaches
- National Journal: How Syria Will Affect the Sequester Fight
- Republicans say we’re starving the military of necessary funds. Experts are less convinced Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Armed Services Committee's top Republican, says the United States can't afford to get into a conflict with Syria given the draconian budget cuts that are due to hit the nation's military. "Our military has no money left," Inhofe said in a recent statement. "As Sec. [Chuck] Hagel, Adm. [James] Winnefeld, and I have discussed before, we have a financial crisis in our military," Inhofe added. "We have a starving military."
- Washington Post: Pentagon buying official forecasts much tougher 2014 for defense contractors: Frank Kendall, the military's top procurement official, said last week that the Pentagon's acquisition staff is preparing to delay and potentially cancel programs in the coming weeks as it prepares for another year of significant budget cuts in 2014, The Washington Post reported. Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said he’s already holding off on some spending.
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Deaths among civilian federal workers have increased between 2011 and 2012. The Federal Times reports that the highest percentage of these deaths has occurred among US postal workers. Safety consultant, Jim Stanley, recommends that government agencies increase safety-related training and outreach to improve conditions for federal workers.
Congress has issued new rules for how the OSC can punish violators of the Hatch Act. Previously allowed to only fire or suspend, the OSC can now also fine federal employees found to be engaging in partisan activities in the workplace. The Federal Times reports that this change in OSC disciplinary powers comes after an investigation into Hatch Act violations by employees in the Department of Education.
The House could move forward with a decision on a continuing resolution for the 2014 fiscal year as early as next week. The Federal Times states, however, that representatives have yet to decide on the duration of the continuing resolution. Members of the House Appropriations Committee are tentatively aiming for a short term measure that would keep agency funding at current post-sequester levels.
The federal workforce did not grow or shrink between July and August of this year according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even so, the Government Executive observes that the number of federal workers is in the process of gradually declining. With the president’s 2014 fiscal budget, the federal workforce is expected to decrease in size by 3.6 percent (a loss of about 200,000 employees). This reduction includes members of the military, the postal service, and the legislative and judicial branches.
FEMA is attempting to modify its Integrated Public Alert and Warning System to make it more accessible to people with disabilities in hurricane prone states. The agency is also attempting to develop methods for reaching out to people with disabilities via social media and techniques for alerting those who are illiterate or lack a strong fluency in English. NextGen reports that the agency is offering a contract for the modification of its alert and warning system.
The Federal Acquisition Institute Training Application System (FAITAS) will be taking over federal acquisition training according to a memo released last week by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Federal News Radio reports that this move is an act of strategic sourcing by the OFPP, designed to improve efficiency in acquisition training and allow for the sharing of resources across different agencies.
Technology experts argue that encryption technologies are still the best way to protect sensitive data. ComputerWorld states that this is the case despite recent reports regarding NSA’s ability to crack encryption codes. NSA’s previous successes at breaking encryption codes were on older systems. It remains to be seen, therefore, if NSA has the ability to crack more robust encryption technologies.
The DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder
Shane Harris in Foreign Policy: The cowboy of the NSA Inside Gen. Keith Alexander's all-out, barely-legal drive to build the ultimate spy machine
From the wince file: The Hill: Congressional staffers say low pay, long hours has them eying new jobs http://thehill.com/capital-living/320835-congressional-staffers-say-low-pay-long-hours-has-them-eying-new-jobs
An Apple reveal comes tomorrow: WSJ: Apple Schedules Sept. 10 Event Apple watchers expect two new iPhones
AllThingsD: What Will the iPhone 5C Cost? “At a special event on Tuesday morning, Apple is expected to unveil two new iPhones — the first, a marquee device; the second a mid-tier one intended to be sold at a lower price that appeals to budget-conscious consumers and those in important emerging markets like China.”