Sequestration: Can we afford all these savings?

Friday - 9/6/2013, 2:00am EDT

Is the sequestration exercise, which started in the spring, working as advertised? Have federal agencies learned to be more frugal: to do more with less?

We all sure hope so.

Or is the big "S" just another painful-to-watch rain dance choreographed by politicians whose goal is to make the other side blink, or look stupid, before the 2014 midterm elections?

What impact, if any, would military action against Syria have on sequestration, which critics claim has reduced military readiness. And what impact will any military action — and possible reaction to it — have on the 10-year-long sequestration budget drawdown?

It's probably safe to say that nobody really knows how much the sequestration exercise has "saved" taxpayers to date. Like most Washington- generated numbers, the answer depends on who is counting, what is being counted (and ignored) and, more often than not, the political point the counter needs to prove or justify.

Even the best things sometimes have a downside. How about the unintended consequences of sequestration. Have there been any?

We may never know how much sequestration costs individual taxpayers, furloughed federal families and the government itself in revenue, research and services lost or delayed.

Since furloughs hit, the tiny Merit Systems Protection Board has been swamped with appeals, and a few threats, from more than 30,000 employees. Normally the board gets 6,000 to 7,000 appeals a year. The current crop is enough to give every employee a case load of 100-plus. If done correctly, that could take a while. If done with less diligence, less time. But still a while.

Many IRS workers complained that while they were furloughed, the government lost more revenue than it saved by not paying salaries. An agent in Washington state said the government saved about $370 for each day he was on furlough, but lost out on the $14,000 in revenue he brings in each day. Check out the numbers here, and look at the comments section.

Defense furloughed the most people (about 650,000). The good news is that it managed to whittle down the number of furlough days from 22 to 11, then finally to six. The bad news is some people have already been furloughed for seven or eight days. So should they get back pay for that time? This is what we call a federal case.

During the sequestration-driven furloughs (which most agencies avoided), workers were not allowed to take paid vacation time off. Now however, those who were furloughed for more days than necessary, as is the case for some Defense workers, are (according to the Washington Post) apparently being told they must take annual leave if they want to get paid for the day or days they were forced to stay home but couldn't take off!

Sequestration was designed as a 10-year exercise. Nobody expects it will last that long. But then again, nobody thought it would really happen in the first place.

So how is it going where you work? Were you hit by it, or did it pass over your agency. What savings have you observed thanks to sequestration. What problems did it cause? Is your agency really saving money and, if so, what's the bottom-line price tag?

Let us know and we'll let them (your political leaders) know what's going on in the ranks.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Today is "National Fight Procrastination Day." Today is the day for finally taking on those to-do tasks you've put off all year long. I know what you're thinking: Sure, sure; maybe later.

(Source: DaysOfTheYear.com)


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