State of the Union Prep Guide – Plus the DorobekINSIDER 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:
  • March may go down as one of the worst months ever for federal budgeting. And it's not just because of sequestration, although that's not ideal. But the CR and 2014 budgets are also in the mix. Insights from Qorvis' Stan Collender.
But up front: Tuesday night is the annual State of the Union What does it mean for government? Join Govloop and the DorobekINSIDER on Twitter as we discuss it as it happens just use the hashtag #SOTUgov. National Journal: Recent history suggests the president should go for grand bargains in every area related to the economy. Washington Post: As President Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, the first lady’s guests will be on their best behavior. White House staffers will have coached those sitting in the gallery with Michelle Obama that at any moment the cameras might pan from the president’s podium to where they sit in the balcony. So they will watch their posture, stifle yawns and skip the chewing gum. DorobekINSIDER sequestration reader:
  • The White House last week warned about the impacts of sequestration. The Obama administration posted a fact sheet laying out the implications of the across the board cuts that are scheduled to take effect on March 1. Read it for yourself here. 
  • The Washington Post reports and Federal Times says there could be more than 1,000 FBI and other federal law enforcement agents who could be required to take time off.
  • The Hill Newspaper says that sequestration discussion is spurring anxiety among feds. “Anxiety is once again growing within the federal workforce as agencies secretly prepare contingency plans for the looming across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration,” The Hill reports. “Agencies, under instruction from the White House, are drafting plans to operate with their budgets slashed — and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a fresh warning Friday that hundreds of thousands of employee furloughs would be in order. Which workers – and for how long – remains a mystery.”
  • Will the cuts have a real-world impact? The Washington Post says that many of the 2011 federal budget cuts had little impact on services 
  • Federal employees to rally on Capitol Hill against cuts. The Washington Post reports, the nation’s largest federal-employee union plans to rally on Capitol Hill Tuesday, with the group expecting more than 1,500 supporters to urge Congress to shield government programs and services from spending cuts. The American Federation of Government Employees has scheduled the gathering for noon near the Capitol building. Guest speakers include Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Members of the union will march to site from a nearby hotel half an hour earlier.
  • Washington Post: Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) on Friday asked workers at the National Institutes of Health to help “put a face” on the the deep automatic spending cuts known as sequestration that will kick in if Congress doesn’t agree to a deficit-reduction plan by March 1. “The reason the public workforce is under attack is because it’s an attack on government,” Cardin told a packed auditorium during his first of several town hall meetings at federal facilities in coming weeks. “It’s not an attack on what you do, so go out there and say what you do.” 
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), the second-highest ranking Republican of the U.S. House, on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday had this somewhat surprising -- and overlooked -- comment when asked about the GOP plans for cuts:“Our plan says we have to bring a federal employee pension benefit down in in with the market rates.”
  • Is the federal program out of whack? Here is a Congressional Budget Office report from January 2012: Comparing the Compensation of Federal and Private-Sector Employees
The portion on benefits: 
  • During the 2005–2010 period, the federal and private sectors differed much more with regard to the costs that employers incurred in providing current and future benefits—including health insurance, retirement benefits, and paid vacation—than they did with regard to wages. Again, the extent of that difference varied according to workers’ educational attainment.
  • Average benefits were 46 percent higher for federal employees whose highest level of education was a bachelor’s degree than for similar private-sector employees and 72 percent higher for federal employees with no more than a high school education than for their private-sector counterparts. Among employees with a doctorate or professional degree, by contrast, average benefits were about the same in the two sectors. 
  • On average for workers at all levels of education, the cost of hourly benefits was 48 percent higher for federal civilian employees than for private-sector employees with certain similar observable characteristics, CBO estimates.
  • The most important factor contributing to differences between the two sectors in the costs of benefits is the defined-benefit pension plan that is available to most federal employees. Such plans are becoming less common in the private sector. CBO’s estimates of the costs of benefits are much more uncertain than its estimates of wages, primarily because the cost of defined-benefit pensions that will be paid in the future is more difficult to quantify and because less-detailed data are available about benefits than about wages.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The SEVEN stories that impact your life
  1. President Obama’s pick for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s nomination is expected tomorrow. But it won’t be a simple vote. Politico reports, republican leaders on the Senate Armed Services Committee are threatening to make things tough for Hagel, either through a hold or a filibuster. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on CBS's "Face the Nation" yesterday he's considering blocking the confirmations of Hagel as Defense secretary and John Brennan as CIA director until the White House answers his questions about the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. "No confirmation without information," Graham said. 
  2. The Washington Post reports the financially strapped U.S. Postal Service lost $1.3 billion during the first quarter of fiscal 2013, but saw a continued uptick of its shipping and package revenue, with a 4.7 percent bump. According to the agency’s financial statement, USPS, which rankled some lawmakers last week with its announced plans to end Saturday mail delivery in August, could have turned a $100 million profit if not for a Congressional mandate that officials have said cripples agency finances.
  3. NextGov reports the General Services Administration wants governmentwide contracts with vendors who can ensure the security of federal employees’ smartphones and tablets and the applications that run on them.The agency is looking for vendors with mobile device management and mobile applications management tools that agencies can tack onto existing governmentwide contracting vehicles.
  4. Lawmakers are proposing cutting their own salaries. The Hill Newspaper reports, the bipartisan efforts comes at a time when congressional approval ratings are near record lows .In a little more than one month since the 113th Congress convened, at least 16 bills have been introduced to downsize members’ paychecks. Some, such as Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) measure S. 65, would repeal the law that allows for an automatic lawmaker pay increases. There are several companion versions of the measure on the House side.
  5. The head of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is retiring. Federal News Radio reports Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar will be leaving at the end of March. He has spent 32 years with the agency including decades in the border patrol. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has not named a successor to lead the agency. 
  6. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service announced Louis Uccellini will be the agency's new director effective immediately. Uccellini is a 24-year veteran of the agency. He was previously director of the National Centers for Environmental Protection in College Park, Md. He is a fellow and two-term president of the American Meteorological Society. Uccellini has also co-authored the two-volume title, "Northeast Snowstorms." 
  7. The Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board, which was supposed to expire this September, will instead have a new, two-year lease on life. Government Executive reported that the extension comes courtesy of the Hurricane Sandy relief bill President Obama signed into law last month. A provision to keep the RAT board alive for the purposes of tracking Sandy relief dollars is buried deep in the $50 billion bill. The board was created by the 2009 economic stimulus bill to track and report on the nearly $900 billion that law authorized. Under the Sandy law, the board will send quarterly reports to the House and Senate appropriations committees.
The DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder
  • USA Today: President Obama hands out the Medal of Honor. Former Army Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha was a section leader during the Oct. 3, 2009, attack on Combat Outpost Keating in eastern Afghanistan, one of the deadliest attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan. Eight American soldiers were killed and two dozen others wounded. This harrowing battle was marked by the heroism of many, including Romesha who fought to save his life and those of his fellow soldiers. In honor of the Medal of Honor, the Army has produced a three-part series highlighting Romesha from the beginning of the battle, his leadership during the fight and finally, his life since leaving the Army.
  • Washington Post: U.S. said to be target of massive cyber-espionage campaign- A new intelligence assessment has concluded that the United States is the target of a massive, sustained cyber-espionage campaign that is threatening the country’s economic competitiveness, according to individuals familiar with the report. The National Intelligence Estimate identifies China as the country most aggressively seeking to penetrate the computer systems of American businesses and institutions to gain access to data that could be used for economic gain. The report, which represents the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community, describes a wide range of sectors that have been the focus of hacking over the past five years, including energy, finance, information technology, aerospace and automotives, according to the individuals familiar with the report, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the classified document, reports Ellen Nakashima.

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