On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:
2013 may go down as the year of Congressional roadblocks for government. First there was sequestration, then the shutdown. But in our Year in Review segment, Brooking’s Darrell West shows how some organizations were able to innovate despite the legislative hardships.
But up front: A budget deal… maybe
National Journal's Congressional Correspondents report that budget negotiators on Tuesday night announced they've reached a two-year deal that sets spending for the current year at $1.012 trillion and would provide $63 billion in sequester relief – all without new tax revenue: The proposed package would set overall discretionary spending annualized for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion. That's about mid-way between the level of $1.058 trillion proposed in the Senate's budget, and the House budget level of $967 billion. The agreement also would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion. The sequester relief is described as being fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. The deal does not extend unemployment insurance.
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A budget agreement reached by the Budget Conference Committee last night will require federal employees hired after January 1 to dedicate an additional 1.3 percent of their salaries towards retirement than current federal workers. The new budget legislation creates a three-tiered system, in which federal employees hired before 2013, contribute 0.8 percent of their salary towards their pension; those hired this year, give 3.1 percent; and those hired after 2013, pay 4.4 percent. The Washington Post notes that this budget deal--when compared to those proposed by President Obama or Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the chairman of the House Budget Committee--is more beneficial for employees, requiring the lowest amount of contributions from federal workers’ salaries. Overall, the deal is expected to save the government $6 billion over the next 10 years.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asked the agency’s inspector general this week to investigate the contracting process associated with the failed initial launch of the site, Healthcare.gov. NextGov reports that Secretary Sebelius has requested that the inspector general focus his analysis on the agency’s acquisition process and its selection, monitoring, and payments to contractors.
Presentation slides released by Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA has been using “cookies” and location data online to uncover targets for government hacking and surveillance. These “cookies” are typically used by advertising companies to follow the web activity of online consumers and then to cater ads to them. The Washington Post states, however, that the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, have been using this technology to track individuals’ online browsing and communications in an attempt to identify and prevent potential cyber threats.
The Senior Executives Association is protesting the Defense Department’s decision to limit the amount of money available for the 2013 performance bonuses of career Senior Executive Service members and Senior Professionals. The Federal Times reports that the funding for bonuses is capped at one percent of the cumulative salaries of the SES and SP participating members. For both SES and SP employees, only those with a level 5 performance rating are eligible for extra money.
President Obama’s nominee for the position of head of the IRS, John Koskinen, spoke before the Senate Finance Committee this week, pledging to restore the public’s trust in the agency. Federal News Radio notes that Koskinen also pledged to improve employee morale in the IRS and to pursue higher amounts of annual, congressional funding for the agency’s operations. Senators on the Finance Committee positively received Koskinen’s remarks, stating that he is likely to be confirmed by the whole Senate.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture motions for Deborah Lee James and three other nominees this week. James is up for the position of Air Force Secretary, and if confirmed, she will be the second female to hold that position. The Federal Times observes that by invoking cloture, Sen. Reid has placed a 30-hour clock on the Senate’s vote for these nominations. Thus, a decision is expected before the end of the week.
Members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees have reached a compromise regarding the annual Defense Department’s authorization bill. Their compromise, however, rejects several of the Pentagon’s suggestions for saving money in the upcoming year such as a new round of base realignments and closures (BRAC), reductions in personnel spending, and the transfer of more health care costs to working-age military retirees. Federal News Radio notes that overall Pentagon officials are unhappy with the legislative compromise, despite the fact that it preserves the agency’s request for a 1 percent pay raise for military members.
DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder
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