Uncle Sam's GPS: Are we there yet?

Thursday - 5/16/2013, 2:00am EDT

When it comes to carrying out new and groundbreaking personnel policy — good or bad — the Pentagon frequently serves as the GPS for most other federal agencies. Defense took the lead with Clinton administration buyouts and later implemented — then reversed — the Bush administrations pay-for-performance system.

Now DoD, by far the largest federal operation, is taking the lead again. Case in point: The "Incredible Shrinking Sequestration" exercise. Sequestration is the stinky genie let out of the bottle by the White House and Congress. Both, for the most part, wish it would go away ASAP.

Furloughs are not funny whether you've already had them (like FAA and EPA workers) or whether you face them, as do tens of thousands of workers in a dozen agencies. Being furloughed for one day means a 20 percent pay cut for that week.

Furloughs, or even the threat of them, in high-profile operations — air traffic controllers, National Park sites, TSA scanners, meat inspection plants and weather forecasting at the peak of the tornado and hurricane season — get people's attention. Long lines at the airport tick off the flying class and, most important, make members of Congress and key staffers late for fundraisers.

Agencies have learned to adjust to sequestration. Some say they can do without furloughs. Others (with some exceptions) have announced them but delayed implementation hoping something will happen to make them unnecessary.

Defense started the ball rolling by announcing in February that 780,000 civilian workers would be furloughed for 22 days between March and September.

Now, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, one of the few top government officials with actual boots-on-the-ground (his combat boots) experience, has trimmed the number of furlough days to 11. And he hopes, but doesn't promise, it can be trimmed some more. The number of employees due to be furloughed is about 100,000 fewer than first announced in March. The furloughs are due to begin July 8, which gives additional wiggle room for DoD, the White House and Congress. Do politicians want to shut down the Pentagon when North Korea is threatening to bomb Austin, Texas, or, more seriously, when the situation in Syria gets even grimmer?

Instead of the across-the-board cuts envisioned by the mad-scientist politicians who devised sequestration, Defense is taking a more measured approach. The Navy and National Guard are doing one thing, Army and the Air Force another.

The furlough threat is still very, very real for hundreds of thousands of feds. But as the Pentagon has shown, good things can happen when career people are allowed, by the politicians, to put on their thinking caps.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

A concerned resident in Brighton, U.K., reported seeing a "wormhole" open up on his neighborhood street. The man reported the presence of a dimensional vortex on a website called "Fix My Street," which is typically used to draw attention to potholes and graffiti. "I would have investigated further but I was concerned my little dog would be sucked into it," the resident wrote. City officials, however, say they won't be investigating the complaint.

(Source: Huffington Post)


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