Sequestration part deux (or just duh!)

Monday - 3/25/2013, 2:00am EDT

It's been said that when the Pentagon gets a cold, the rest of the federal government sneezes.

Makes sense.

DoD has the most people, a very visible mission and is the second-biggest spender behind Social Security/Medicare. Also, some of the most innovative personnel programs in government have been first tested then launched by DoD.

Bottom line:

When big changes take place in government, they often start out in Defense.

In the 1990s, when the Clinton administration decided to trim and privatize more than 300,000 federal civilian jobs, buyouts were first introduced in Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marine Corps. They slowly spread to other agencies, but Defense offered the most.

The most recent incarnation of pay-for-performance or merit pay also was tested in Defense. The National Security Personnel System started and ended with a test group of about 200,000 DoD civilians. Bush administration efforts to spread it to other agencies and departments mostly fizzled thanks to union objections and legal decisions. It was rolled back shortly after President Bush left office and employees who had been put into it were rolled back into the GS grade system.

Now the Defense Department, which was set to make the biggest sacrifice and take the most hits under sequestration is, wisely, having second thoughts. It had planned to lead the way and set an example by furloughing virtually all of its 780,000 plus civilians. Notices would have gone out last Friday, had Congress not extended the stopgap continuing resolution through the end of this fiscal year.

The furloughs would have begun in mid-April (employees must have 30 days' notice) and would have run through the end of September. Workers were to have been furloughed for up to 22 days during that period. Each furlough day would represent a 20 percent pay cut — with corresponding adjustments to any government match for TSP contributions — for that week.

If DoD had dropped the furlough shoe, other agencies would have quickly followed suit. Now there appears to be a two-week (at least) breathing space while new and revised budget ceilings are reexamined.

So what's happened?

Despite the threats of its designers (the White House) and its enablers (the Congress), life as we know it didn't end when the unthinkable happened and sequestration kicked in. Most agencies said it was a matter of time, and the White House took the lead by canceling White House public tours so cherished by visiting school children. And their voter-parents.

Federal agencies with the clout and a public face — Interior, Agriculture, Homeland Security and Justice — will continue to warn about cuts they must make that you will feel.

Meantime long-time feds, who have been through similar politically driven drills like this a couple of times, can assure their younger coworkers (who are just recovering from their first recession) that it ain't over until the Plus-XX person sings.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

A New York company says it makes "the strongest coffee in the world." The brand, called "Death Wish," has double the amount of caffeine of a regular 16-ounce coffee, approaching toxic levels. For some reason, "The best part of waking up is ... Death Wish ... in your cup," just doesn't have the same ring to it.

(Source: UPI Odd News)


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

Pentagon delays furlough notices for two weeks
After passage of the 2013 funding bill earlier today, the Pentagon is reassessing its need for civilian furloughs. The Defense Department said it will delay issuance of furlough notices to its 780,000 civilian workers for two weeks. DoD had originally planned to begin sending out furlough notices today.

Debate rages over USPS delivery changes
It seems like a simple question: Does the U.S. Postal Service have the legal authority to end Saturday delivery of first-class mail? The Government Accountability Office weighed in on the matter Thursday - but, in the end, seemed to offer more questions than answers.