On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:
The federal government has arguably one of the best retirement plans out there, but that doesn't mean you should sit back and not pay attention. Here’s a quick recap of what you need to know about your federal retirement plan - the TSP.
But up front:
Congressional negotiators are nearing a small-scale budget agreement, possibly by the end of this week. - WSJ
Pentagon to cut jobs, contracts by $1 billion - CNN Money
And the SEVEN stories that impact your life
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced that he will be cutting 200 positions from his office over the next five years as part of a pledge to reduce the Pentagon’s headquarters workforce by 20 percent. Defense One reports that Secretary Hagel’s efforts will save the Pentagon an estimated $1 billion over the next five years. In addition to cutting staff, many offices in the Pentagon are in the process of reorganizing workload responsibilities among remaining staff members and are considering reducing the number of both civil service and contract employees.
Members of Congress are close to finalizing a budget deal that will provide sequestration relief to the Pentagon and other agencies for the next two years. Headed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a U.S. House and Senate budget committee has developed a discretionary spending agreement with a cap of $1.01 trillion-$1.02 trillion over the next two years. To help meet this goal, the Federal Times states that Ryan and Murray have come up with $85 billion in cuts and revenues. The first twenty billion dollars has been designated for reducing the national deficit. The remainder will go towards sequestration relief for government agencies with half of the remainder going to the Pentagon.
The site, Healthcare.gov, processed 29,000 enrollments in the first two days after its relaunch this month. This amount is greater than the total number of enrollments for the month of October, during which time the site suffered from a myriad of technical glitches and failures. The Obama administration states that the high amount of enrollment in the past couple of days is an indication of the site’s improved functionality and evidence of the continued high demand for healthcare coverage in the U.S. NextGov reports that enrollment is still behind schedule for the six-month window that citizens have to sign up for health insurance, but that recent numbers demonstrate a positive step in the right direction.
The COLA for veterans’ benefits will be increasing by 1.5 percent next year. More importantly, the COLA for these benefits will not be rounded down to the nearest dollar like in previous years, due to a change in congressional legislation. Federal News Radio estimates that as a result, veterans with no dependents and a 10 percent disability will receive about $130 a month next year, while veterans with a 100 percent disability will receive as much as $2,858 per month in 2014.
The Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the OMB has raised the cap on the amount that the government will reimburse federal contractors for the salaries of top executives by 24 percent. The Federal Times states that the reimbursement cap will be increasing from $763,029 to $952,308. Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Joe Jordan, explains that the increase will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, but others such as the Professional Services Council (PSC), a trade group for service contractors, question if these changes are simply a political move.
FBI officials are expecting 10 to 15 furlough days for agency employees next year. The Government Executive reports that the anticipated impact of these furloughs will be an undermining of FBI investigations into terrorist and criminal activities in the United States. FBI officials explain that while furloughed, employees cannot engage in their day-to-day activities, unless in an emergency situation. This means that when furloughed, an agent cannot investigate or respond to developing leads in a criminal case. Officials further noted that sequestration-related spending caps are limiting the agency’s ability to hire new employees and train personnel.
The NSA is collecting close to 5 billion records a day through its cell phone surveillance program according to top-secret documents made public by Edward Snowden. Though not the objective of NSA’s surveillance efforts, the agency’s cell phone monitoring program allows NSA officials to track the location of individuals throughout the world. The Washington Post notes that privacy groups are in opposition to NSA’s efforts, lobbying Congress to limit the agency’s surveillance capabilities. However, NSA officials maintain that their actions are legal and geared towards finding unknown associates of intelligence targets.
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Verge: Merriam-Webster's 2013 Word of the Year: Science
Why People Are So Bad At Picking Passwords: "Studies suggest red-haired women tend to choose the best passwords and men with bushy beards or unkempt hair, the worst. These studies also reveal that when it comes to passwords, women prefer length and men diversity. On the internet, the most popular colour is blue, at least when it comes to passwords. If you are wondering why, it is largely because so many popular websites and services (Facebook, Twitter and Google to name but three) use the colour in their logo. That has a subtle impact on the choices people make when signing up and picking a word or phrase to form a supposedly super-secret password. The number one conclusion from looking at that data — people are lousy at picking good passwords. 'You have to remember we are all human and we all make mistakes,' says Mr Thorsheim. In this sense, he says, a good password would be a phrase or combination of characters that has little or no connection to the person picking it. All too often, Mr Thorsheim adds, people use words or numbers intimately linked to them. They use birthdays, wedding days, the names of siblings or children or pets. They use their house number, street name or pick on a favourite pop star. This bias is most noticeable when it comes to the numbers people pick when told to choose a four digit pin. Analysis of their choices suggests that people drift towards a small subset of the 10,000 available. In some cases, up to 80% of choices come from just 100 different numbers."
The annual Corruption Perceptions Index has been released, and unsurprisingly northern Europe, with Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Norway in the top five, dominated the least corrupt countries category. The Middle East and North Africa were the most corrupt, with Afghanistan, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iraq and Syria in the top ten. The index, which is released by Berlin-based Transparency International, ranks how people perceive corruption in each country’s public sector. Greece, which has long been plagued by its reputation for corruption, was one of the biggest improvers from last year. Australia, however, was one of the biggest decliners. The United States came in 19th.
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