Budget Deal on the Horizon? – Plus the DorobekINSIDER’s 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

But up front:

  • Budget deal expected this week amounts to a cease-fire as sides move to avert standoff- House and Senate negotiators were putting the finishing touches Sunday on what would be the first successful budget accord since 2011, when the battle over a soaring national debt first paralyzed Washington. The deal expected to be sealed this week on Capitol Hill would not significantly reduce the debt, now $17.3 trillion and rising. It would not close corporate tax loopholes or reform expensive health-care and retirement programs. It would not even fully replace sharp spending cuts known as the sequester, the negotiators’ primary target.  - Washington Post.

  • The Fix: Why Congress had to go small in pursuit of a budget deal- Congressional budget negotiators are on the verge of a deal. Just don't call it a grand bargain, a sweeping agreement or a landmark accord. In other words, congressional leaders are going small. Given what's transpired in Congress during the last couple of years in the budget debate, it's not difficult to see why a broader arrangement simply wasn't in the cards.

  • The United States Releases its Second Open Government National Action Plan - The White House.

And the SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. OPM has provided updated guidance regarding the dismissal and closure procedures for federal agencies in the Washington, DC area given this past weekend’s amount of snow and ice. Building off of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act, OPM’s guidance reminds agencies that they are required to incorporate teleworking into their continuity of operations plans. NextGov reports that as part of these requirements, agencies must ensure that all employees and supervisors are prepared for a teleworking strategy and that equipment has been tested for its functionality.  

  2. Soon enough, you may be able to use the CTRL+F (find) function to search for government documents. The Obama Administration released a second open government action plan this week to include many of the key measures critics argued were missing from the first. The second U.S. Government National Action plan introduced 23 new or expanded measures to address issues from reforms to the security classification system to the modernization of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),  reports Federal News Radio. One of the most exciting new measures, NextGov explains,  is the implementation of search and analysis tools that will automatically analyze documents for possible release, starting with e-mails from the Reagan Administration. This same technology will be leveraged to channel all FOIA requests through a single online portal to make documents more easily accessible to researchers, journalists, and concerned citizens.

  3. President Obama released a memo late last week stating that by 2020 federal agencies will be required to get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources. Agencies will build up to this 20 percent level over the next several years as they are required to use 10 percent renewable energy by 2015, 15 percent by 2016, and 17.5 percent by 2018. The Federal Times notes that President Obama encouraged agencies to consider the initiation of renewable energy projects at both federal facilities and at the sites of formerly contaminated lands, landfills and mines.

  4. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is cutting his staff by about 200 positions over the next five years, but plans to protect positions in the following key security areas: homeland defense, cyber threats, and Asia-Pacific regional issues. Additional areas that will be spared from the planned staff reduction are those related to combating outer space threats and weapons of mass destruction. Defense One notes that these areas and positions fall under the office of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller, whose office by 2019 will experience a 12 percent reduction in its military and civil service personnel and a decline of about 33 percent in its contract support.

  5. Mediators often say that a good compromise means that neither party walks away satisfied. Based on the critical responses from both sides of the aisle, the emerging budget deal may be a “good compromise.” The new budget seeks to set spending levels and soften sequester cuts, GovExec reports, and is being crafted by Republican Representative Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray. House Republicans believe government should continue to be  funded at sequester levels and are critical of the budget increases. House Democrats are concerned their priorities, including an extension on unemployment insurance, will be left out of the budget agreement and are skeptical of the revenue sources the bill relies upon.. As it stands now, the deal would add $40 billion to the budget to be split between military and domestic spending with an additional $25 billion added in 2015 (similarly split) and $20 billion reserved for deficit reduction.

  6. Virginia hopes to be the home for the FBI’s new campus after the General Services Administration (GSA) announced its plans to move the FBI’s main office out of the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, according to The Washington Post. Virginia’s legislators pushing for the deal  join the ranks of local officials from D.C. and Maryland who are lobbying for the headquarters to move to their jurisdictions. The GSA issued guidelines that the new campus must be located on 50 acres of land located within 2.5 miles of the Capital Beltway and no further than 2 miles from a Metro Station, ruling out previous proposals for sites in D.C. and Northern Virginia. Virginia politicians have rallied behind a proposal to build the new headquarters in Springfield, Virginia while Maryland’s congressional delegation is urging the GSA to consider a site in Prince George’s County.

  7. The State Department has finally captured its own Bonnie and Clyde, The Federal Times announced, after a former contractor and her husband were sentenced to prison for a multimillion dollar fraud scheme. Kathleen McGrade served as a contractor for the State Department’s office of acquisition management and was secretly married to Brian Collinsworth, an employee of a company that received contracts through McGrade’s office for ventilation systems in embassies around the world. McGrade and Collinsworth orchestrated deals that paid Collinsworth’s company over $50 million in heating and ventilation contracts.. Much of that money went to fund McGrade and Collinsworth’s lavish lifestyle, including a yacht, a Steinway piano, and properties valued at $7.9 million. The couple has been ordered to forfeit these assets to the government, along with serving prison time.

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