Budget Battles Keep Agencies Guessing – Plus the DorobekINSIDER’s 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

The big story of the day is from The New York Times: Budget Battles Keep Agencies Guessing

It is also probably the biggest understatement of the year.

The collision of the $1 trillion in budget cuts known as sequestration and the breakdown of the normal budgeting process is creating headaches not just for Washington but also for a vast web of offices dependent on federal financing. Many have been left uncertain as to how much money — if any — they will have to spend in the year ahead.

Meanwhile the Syria situation adds more uncertainty in the budget situation, argues Stan Collender, a partner at Qorvis Communications and author of the Capital Gains and Games blog.

It wasn't too long yesterday after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his support for the president's position on Syria that the blogosphere erupted with speculation that the White House had cut a deal. Boehner, it was said, had quickly signed on to U.S. military action against Syria in exchange for the White House moving closer to the GOP position on the upcoming battles on the continuing resolution, the debt ceiling and sequestration, that is, on #cliffgate

The SEVEN stories that impact your life:

  1. The Defense Department has decided against conducting a full budget audit by September 2014. Instead, the Department will complete a more limited budgetary review, which will include an analysis of about 77 percent of the organization’s funds. The Federal Times reports that the Pentagon decided to make this change in an effort to be more cost-effective. DOD officials state that the Department is committed to having all of its book ready for review by 2017.  

  2. Veterans’ advocates are railing against the piles of paperwork that veteran-owned businesses are having to fill out in their attempts to obtain a VA federal contract. These large stacks of paperwork are the Department’s attempt at weeding out fraud among disabled-veteran-owned businesses. The Washington Post reports that such a rigorous application process, however, is actually discouraging and preventing legitimate veteran-owned businesses from obtaining VA contracts. These contracts and their revenue are instead going to non-veteran companies.  

  3. The U.S. Postal Service, by the end of September, will be deploying 175,000 cell phones for use by its delivery employees to collect real time data and enable wireless communication. Specifically, the agency intends for its employees to use these phones to both log the time and location of deliveries and upload this information instantaneously to the postal facility. The Federal Times notes that the ability to instantaneously upload delivery information at the point of delivery is something that up until now, postal workers were unable to accomplish.   

  4. In their annual report, released today, the Information Sharing Environment states that of the 39 departments and agencies that handle classified government data on their networks, only 44 percent of them have met the minimum standards required for guarding against an insider threat. The Federal Times reports that though efforts at improvement have been made, steps still need to be taken in the areas of implementing an insider threat program and improving removable media policies.  

  5. The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund announced today that it will no longer be able to provide furlough loans to civilian federal employees due to a lack of funds. Since May of this year, the volume of emergency assistance loans for the organization has doubled each month due to both sequestration and furloughs. Federal News Radio reports that the organization will be notifying furlough loan applicants of the situation and will be keeping their applications on file in case the organization’s financial situation changes.   

  6. The Thrift Savings Plan saw a sharp decrease this past month, with all of its associated funds--except that of the G Fund--registering negative values by the end of August. The G Fund remained at 0.18 percent for the month.  Federal News Radio reports that despite this drop last month, 2013 has overall been a good year for stocks.

  7. President Obama announced today his decision to appoint four individuals to key administration posts. The White House reports that President Obama wishes to appoint Huban Gowadia as Director for Domestic Nuclear Detection, DHS; Geoffrey Haskett as US Commissioner, Russia Polar Bear Commission; Gary Frazer as Alternate US Commissioner, Russia Polar Bear Commission; and Douglas Frantz as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of State.

The DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • Atlantic Cities: How Lasers Will Give the U.S. East Coast Precise New Post-Sandy Maps

  • And the announcement yesterday that Microsoft is going to buy the once mighty Nokia. The New York Times calls it the end of an era in mobile -- and marks the shift from hardware to software:

  • For BlackBerry, Bad News in the Microsoft-Nokia Marriage

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