#GovShutdown – Day 15, Senate makes progress – Plus the DorobekINSIDER’s 7 stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • We'll say it as many times as it takes: "You Are Essential!" Every federal employee is essential.  But the "You Are Essential" mantra doesn't change the fact that some people were required to work during the shutdown, while some were furloughed. That situation could mean some awkwardness when the government reopens. So how do you deal with the potential land mines?

The DorobekINSIDER shutdown reader -- Day 15

The first glimmer of hope. Of course, it feels like we have been there before. But also in the shutdown reader: the challenges of filing for unemployment; Defense impacts

Don’t forget to tell people that you are essential and get your “I Am Essential” stickers :

  • Washington Post -- Senate leaders said late Monday that they were closing in on a deal to raise the federal debt limit and end the two-week-old government shutdown, just days before the Treasury Department exhausts its ability to borrow. The emerging agreement would:

    • Extend the Treasury Department’s borrowing authority until Feb. 7

    • Reopen the government and fund federal agencies through mid-January

    • In the meantime, policymakers would launch a new round of talks over broader budget issues in hopes of developing a plan to replace deep automatic spending cuts known as the sequester before Jan. 15. That is when the next round of sequester cuts is scheduled to slice another $20 billion out of agency budgets, primarily from the Pentagon.

    • The framework under consideration includes only minor changes to President Obama’s signature health-care law, falling well short of defunding it or delaying major provisions as conservative Republicans initially sought.

  • See for Yourself: Uncle Sam’s Bank Account Running Low

  • CNN Money: Furloughed workers face unemployment claim mess

  • The Wall Street Journal: What Furloughed Workers Need to Know About Filing for Unemployment Benefits

  • The Daily Beast: Debt Ceiling Deal May Be Struck, but the Crisis Is Not Over Yet

  • Bloomberg News: Federal Contractors Stuck in Bottleneck by U.S. Shutdown

  • Business Week: The potential debt deal ain't pretty, but it’s better than a default  

  • NYT: Former Defense Chief Says Fiscal Standoff Is Hurting Military Readiness

  • Defense One: Shutdown Creates Training ‘Gap’ for Afghanistan-Bound Troops  

  • Politico: Erskine Bowles on government #shutdown: 'It's insane'

  • BGOV: Long-Term Budget Problems Back on Table

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Information technology funds will soon be slashed as the sequester begins to hit  discretionary spending, according to The Federal Times. The automatic budget cuts set civilian and defense IT spending at $70 billion, down nearly $4 billion from last year. These cuts will likely mean that agencies will only have enough funds to maintain existing systems and will not be able make investments in new systems. Robert Haas of the Techamerica Foundation stated that CIOs are used to doing more with less, yet with these budget cuts, “CIOs will have to do less with less.” The Department of Defense (DOD) will absorb 50% of the cuts. The budgets of procurement, research, development, test and evaluation will be the most affected.

  2. The National Security Agency is collecting hundreds of millions e-mail contacts lists from personal accounts, including American accounts, The Washington Post reports. According to documents provided by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden and statements by senior intelligence officials, the NSA is gathering contact lists from email providers, instead of simply focusing on the email activity of individual users. Currently, the NSA has collected addresses from a sizeable fraction of the world’s e-mail. Analysis of this data allows the NSA to investigate networks and search for connections between individuals. In addition, contact lists on platforms such as Yahoo or Gmail often include phone numbers, street addresses, and pictures, providing the NSA with a rich source of data.

  3. The Department of Health and Human Services is rushing to fix the glitches that are preventing the health care exchange website from running effectively. Like the average American, the website is having trouble maintaining the strength to get up and running. Many of these glitches are due to the fact that HHS did not anticipate the large numbers of people interested in signing up for the exchanges on the first few days, according to The Federal Times. HHS has hired two contractors to fix the glitches and decrease the wait times, CGI Group and Quality Software Services. Since the contractors had been hired, wait times on the website have decreased by 50%, according to HHS. However, members of Congress believe the contractors and HHS must do more to ensure the website is open for everyone who needs affordable coverage.

  4. IBM has asked the court for a “stay” in its case against Amazon Web Services’ acquisition of a CIA contract on cloud computing infrastructure, according to FCW. On October 7, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled in favor of AWS, overturning IBM’s protest bid for the lucrative contract. This recent “stay” will stop the resumption of work by AWS that was made possible after the favorable ruling. The ruling nullified cheaper bids for the contract by both IBM and AWS that were offered in response to GAO recommendations. The motion to “stay” is sealed, yet IBM released a statement arguing that the Federal Claims court ruling was illogical given the economic climate and serious flaws in the bidding process. The battle for this contract is especially significant considering the CIA’s commitment to developing a cloud infrastructure for the entire intelligence community and their budget of $600 million over four years to do so.

  5. The shutdown should not affect critical progress on chemical safety, stated former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman in a conversation with the press. In light of terror threats and the recent plant explosion in Texas, Whitman argued that the issue of chemical safety cannot wait until the shutdown is over to be addressed, GovExec reports. The shutdown may push back the October 31 deadline the Obama administration set to create standards and regulations for chemical safety. President Obama issued a directive in August to improve chemical safety.

  6. Cost of Living Adjustments (or COLA) may increase slightly for recipients of social security and other federal benefits, Federal News Radio reports. Reports estimate the increase to be around 1.5%, compared to 2012’s 1.7% increase. This increase will affect the nearly 58 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children who receive Social Security benefits, as well as the nearly 3 million disabled veterans, 2.5 million federal retirees, and their nearly 8 million survivors. Unfortunately, the exact COLA increase announcement has been delayed indefinitely due to the government shutdown. The adjustment is usually announced in October to give agencies time to prepare for changes to service delivery..

  7. The Department of Homeland Security and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have teamed up to create an amazing innovation to improve disaster response. This technology, called FINDER, will help first responders find people trapped in collapsed buildings and debris, according to Federal News Radio. FINDER grew out of technology JPL had deployed to measure ocean changes and track satellites. When DHS began looking for technology to improve search and rescue missions, the agencies partnered up to apply JPL technology to a critical DHS mission. FINDER uses low-powered microwaves, about 1/100th of the power used by a cellphone, to detect breathing and the heartbeat of a person buried in rubble. FEMA called the innovation “The Holy Grail” of search and rescue. With more partnerships like these, we soon could be seeing the new “Magna Carta” of search and rescue technology in the near future.

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • The New American Center: Why our nation isn't as divided as we think

  • Huffington Post: The one word to never ever say again at work: 'busy'

  • WSJ: What's Scott Adams' secret to success? 'Goals are for losers'

  • The Economist: More companies and public bodies now recognise that humour can help customers pay more attention to safety drills

  • The New York Times: In Struggle With Weight, Taft Used a Modern Diet

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