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The top reads:
A huge story with implications across state and local government: The New York Times: Detroit Ruling on Bankruptcy Lifts Pension Protections
“The (Detroit bankruptcy) judge made it clear that federal bankruptcy law trumps the state law when it comes to protections for public employees’ pensions, making the pensions of 23,000 retirees fair game for the city to include in its plan of adjustment. But while the judge said pensions could not be treated differently from other unsecured debt, he said the court would be careful before approving any cuts in monthly payments to retirees.”
Related: The New York Times: Pension Ruling in Detroit Echoes West to California
The New York Times: Illinois Legislature Approves Retiree Benefit Cuts in Troubled Pension System
Pentagon Disconnects iPhone, Android Security Service, Forcing a Return to BlackBerry for Some
The SEVEN stories that impact your life
New legislation introduced by Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and Doug Lamborn (R-CO) would cancel sequestration cuts for the Defense Department and a small assortment of other security agencies by requiring federal employees to contribute a larger amount of their salaries to their pensions. The bill would also reduce Medicare payments and agricultural subsidies and institute other reforms to entitlement programs. Federal News Radio states that if passed and implemented, the bill could reduce the federal deficit by $200 billion over 10 years.
DOD Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter has stepped down from his post this week. President Obama, in an unprecedented move, has appointed Christine Fox, the Pentagon’s former chief program and budget analyst, to serve as the acting Deputy Defense Secretary. Defense News notes that in accepting this role, Fox will become the senior-most woman to hold a DOD post. The search for a full time, Deputy Defense Secretary nominee is ongoing and will likely continue into 2014.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released a report this week stating that the IRS “may not be capable of identifying refund fraud or schemes” associated with the Affordable Care Act. The Washington Post explains that the IRS is responsible for giving healthcare subsidies to low income individuals and families so that they can afford insurance under the Affordable Care Act. However, according to the Inspector General, the IRS with its current security controls and anti-fraud programs cannot determine if an application for assistance is genuine or not. IRS officials have responded, stating that the agency has improved its security system and will continue to do so as Obamacare moves forward.
The challenges of U.S. veterans with substance abuse and mental health problems made headlines this week during the first national Vet Court Conference. This conference highlighted these issues and their connection to a large number of veterans in U.S. prisons and jails. Nextgov reports that about 700,000 veterans are currently incarcerated. Additional figures were presented at the conference and solutions to this issue were discussed by a combination of judges, mental and health professionals, and senior officials in the Veterans Affairs and Defense Departments.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers are pushing for legislative reforms on the solicitation of design-build contracts for federal construction projects. These reforms would make it easier for small businesses to compete for construction projects by reducing the amount of upfront costs and paperwork associated with bidding. One potential reform effort is the Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act of 2013. The Federal Times observes that this legislation would require agencies to implement a simplified two-step process for selecting prospective companies. Final candidates for the project would then have to fill out the extensive paperwork associated with any project worth more than $750,000.
Representatives of the National Border Patrol Council have stated before Congress that union members are willing to take a pay cut in light of the recent abuses associated with administratively uncontrollable overtime. The Washington Post notes that CBP federal labor organizations are in favor of congressional reforms associated with the pay schedules of border patrol agents, even if these reforms represent a loss in income. A spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council, Shawn Moran, estimates that border patrol agents will lose $6,500 annually as a result of legislative changes to their pay.
OPM has released a reminder for federal employees to use or lose their excess annual leave before the deadline, which is January 11, 2014 for most federal workers. The Government Executive reports that the majority of federal employees have about 240 additional hours of leave each year and that if left unused these hours must be forfeited by the employee. The only additional option for not using these hours is to submit a request for the government to restore them for reasons of public business, illness or injury, or administrative error.
DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder
Can you go home again?: The Wall Street Journal: Sometimes we buy something at a store only to realize it belongs back at the store, at which point it is perfectly acceptable to make a U-turn and ask for a refund. But what happens when people quit their jobs only to realize they want to go back? It can't be acceptable to make a U-turn in the workplace, can it?
FastCoDesign: The Esoteric Symbols Behind User Interfaces