A 2-year (or 2-week) breather for feds?

Friday - 12/20/2013, 2:00am EST

Back in the day — the old Army if you will — one of the cleaner mantras used to inspire us to greater effort was simple:

DO SOMETHING EVEN IF IT IS WRONG!

There were others but most are politically incorrect by today's standards. OK, and sometimes dirty too. As in very. Then there is FUBAR which, if you get it, shame on you!

There were times, while on picking-up-cigarette-butt exercises, when we understood the even-if-its-wrong rallying cry. Others times not so much. But it is good to know that even in today's more sensitive climate, it still remains in Washington although in a different, softer and gentler form.

In this case it raises the question: Does the new House-Senate budget deal give federal workers a two-year or two-week reprieve from being disposable targets and political punching bags?

The agreement has been hailed by many as a return to olden days: When the House and Senate worked four and sometimes even five days a week. When budgets were approved on time and when elected officials (and by extension staffers) could stand to be in the same room as members of the opposite political party.

But is it truly a pact for the ages, a two-year agreement that will perhaps slowly minimize the effect of the embedded sequestration poison pill? Or will it turn out to be another last-minute, temporary, let's get-out-of-Dodge deal? Is it the beginning of a new era of cooperation and compromise between warring parties and ideologies, or is it a pre-Christmas flash in the pan that fizzles in the upcoming election year?

Over the past three years, federal workers have had their pay frozen — both by known enemies and assumed friends. They have been furloughed without pay and forced to stay home in a government-wide lockout even though they did get paid.

Feds have been frightened by proposals — some backed by the White House as well as known meanies in the House of Representatives — that would have cut their take-home pay and dramatically reduced future federal, military and Social Security benefits in retirement. None of that happened. New feds will pay more for their pensions; but, despite reporting in the national news media, no civilian retirement benefits have been cut.

Retired military personnel, under the new budget agreement, will be limited to "diet" cost-of-living adjustments (one percentage point than the actual rise in inflation over a certain amount) if they are under age 62. After that, they will get full COLAs. While that was an unpleasant surprise, it is similar to the situation for civilians under the Federal Employees Retirement System. And, while not a fatal blow, it is very likely to be repealed next year for current and future military retirees.

Other features of the Ryan-Murray agreement, approved by the full House and Senate, are also likely to be unraveled or undone next year. Unless replaced by off-setting, cost-cutting deals, much of the package could be diluted or set aside, piece-by-piece, over the next two years.

For feds the question remains: Does this deal remove the bulls eye target they've been carrying on their backs? Or will it be same-old, same-old again in the New Year? Time will tell. Meantime, please, do something even if it's wrong. If that seems like the right thing to you.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

The newspaper crossword first appeared in the U.S. 100 years ago this Saturday, when Arthur Wynne of the New York World published a "Word-Cross" puzzle in the paper's Fun section.

(Source: Smithsonian Magazine)


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

Why some feds are skeptical of new self-plus-one FEHBP option
Thanks to the bipartisan budget deal passed by Congress and on its way to the President's desk, though, federal employees will soon have a new health-insurance coverage option: "self plus one." Federal employees have long clamored for the couples-only option, but the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the FEHBP, has always demurred, citing concerns it would disrupt the risk-sharing inherent in large group plans. Now, with the self-plus-one option enshrined in law, at least one federal-employee union finds OPM's recent change of heart "problematic."

Words from the wise: How 3 agencies attained best places to work status
NASA, the Federal Communications Commission and the Patent and Trademark Office found success by engaging both managers and employees.

Report: Nearly half of the federal workforce eligible to telework
The number of federal employees deemed eligible to telework nearly doubled last year. All told, nearly half of the entire federal workforce - more than 1 million employees - is eligible to telework, according to an annual report to Congress from the Office of Personnel Management. That's a 49 percent increase in telework- eligibility compared to fiscal 2011, when about 685,000 employees - or 32 percent of the total workforce - was deemed telework-eligible.