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But up front: SequestrationThere have been many reports looking at the impact of sequestration on the economy, on the Washington region, on contractors. And we have told you about assessments from the Aerospace Industries Association, and the Professional Services Council has issued its assessment of what sequestration might mean for civilian agencies.
As we told you, the Obama administration has laid out its assessment. The impact to government isn’t quite clear. The Washington Post says those cuts could impact a wide range of federal agencies and their employees, according to senior Obama administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A White House analysis of how “sequestration” — or mandatory reductions — would affect government operations warned of cutbacks in food inspections, air traffic control, numbers of FBI and customs and border patrol agents, as well as federally sponsored medical research, among other programs.
But Federal Times says that several nonpartisan Washington think tanks, including the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, have suggested that sequestration may be manageable. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that even if the sequestration cuts stick, the annual Pentagon budget would dip below $500 billion for just one year, return to current levels by 2017 and approach $600 billion by 2020. And Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment projects the Pentagon likely could avoid canceling any weapon programs and would not be forced to lay off troops or slash benefits.
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The extension of the federal pay freeze may be one of the last pieces of legislation the Congress will take up before the election. The freeze is part of the House-passed “continuing resolution” that provides funds to keep the government operating through March at about current levels. It is needed because none of the regular appropriations bills have been enacted for the government budget year that starts Oct. 1. The Washington Postreports the measure would provide for no general federal salary increase during its duration but leaves the door open for one afterward. President Obama has proposed a 0.5 percent across the board raise at that time. The Senate is expected to take up the measure this week.
The Hill Newspaper says that the Pentagon has come to the realization that defense is going to take a budgetary hit regardless of who’s in the White House next year. Politico reports that so far almost all the discussion about an alternate deal to sequestration has so far been confined to the Senate, which has not passed a defense authorization or an appropriation bill or any alternative to the automatic, across-the-board budget restrictions. The House passed a bill earlier this year that would void the first year’s worth of sequestration by freezing the size of the federal workforce, and House lawmakers so far have stood by their work.
Despite a rise in drug and alcohol abuse by the military personnel in the last decade the Pentagon is falling behind on the issue. A new report from the report by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, asserts that heavy drinking “is an accepted custom” within the military that needs to be regulated more carefully, recommending routine screening for excessive alcohol use. NextGov says about 20 percent of active-duty military personnel reported heavy drinking in 2008, the latest year for which data were available, and reports of binge drinking increased to 47 percent in 2008, from 35 percent in 1998.
A new report from the Congressional Budget Office says a new House bill that puts senior civil servants accused of wrongdoing on unpaid leave would not significantly affect federal spending. GovExec says the legislation would allow agencies to place Senior Executive Service employees on unpaid administrative leave for up to 180 days if they are accused of misappropriation of funds or other job-related misconduct, grew out of the scandal involving an extravagant Las Vegas conference held in 2010 at taxpayers’ expense by the General Services Administration.
The General Services Administration's new System for Award Management has been plagued by problems that have persisted long after the GSA initially said they were fixed. Federal Computer Week reports, SAM, which is designed to integrate three acquisition data systems that store and make available information about contractors, went online in July and was taken offline days later because of performance issues. The GSA and IBM Corp. say they have been working to fix the problems.
A survey of federal managers found that among areas of government spending, cloud computing came in last for quality and frequency, Government Executive reports. The Government Business Council survey found only 24 percent of the 548 respondents believe cloud computing is of high quality, and just 15 percent said they use it on a regular basis. On the flip side, nearly 80 percent of federal managers said digital records and enterprise content management systems are high-quality systems -- though only 48 percent said they had access to the technology or used it on a regular basis.
The Environmental Protection Agency is taking it’s e-mail to the cloud. EPA has hired Lockheed Martin to roll out Microsoft’s cloud-based tools by early 2013, Nextgov reports. The EPA said in a statement Sept. 14 that officials expect the Microsoft-based email and collaboration system to save about $12 million over four years. The federal government expects to ultimately save about $5 billion annually by moving about one-fourth of its information technology to cloud computing. The contract with Lockheed Martin is valued at $9.8 million.
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Video of the Week: Former Federal CTO Beth Noveck talks open-source government during a Ted Talk.