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Obama administration officials are painting a bleak picture of how federal agencies would fare under sequestration, the automatic budget cuts slated to go into effect in two weeks. The Senate Appropriations Committee heard testimony from several Obama administration officials about the consequences of the cuts, which are set to take effect March 1. However, Danny Werfel, controller of the Office of Management and Budget, emphasized to the committee that employee furloughs would not be immediate.
The Obama administration offered agencies new guidance on sequestration, telling agency leaders and federal-employee unions that sequestration won't have an immediate impact on the federal workforce or government operations even if the automatic budget cuts go into effect Jan. 2.
OPM published a guide providing agency human-resources officials with more information about "administrative furloughs," which are different from those stemming from government shutdowns because agencies typically have more time to plan their spending reductions. The Obama administration has reassured reassured federal agencies that sequestration won't have an immediate impact on the federal workforce or day-to-day government operations.
Agencies across government should intensify their planning for across-the-board sequestration cuts, according to a Jan. 14 memo to the heads of executive department and agencies from Jeff Zients, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. The memo comes on the heels of similar guidance issued last week by the Defense Department. Meanwhile, the Navy warned of the threat of reduced funding from a short-term spending measure.
The Army has put an immediate freeze on civilian hiring and will begin terminating some temporary employees to reduce spending ahead of potential across-the-board budget cuts later this year. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno and Army Secretary John McHugh also directed Army commanders and supervisors to reduce base-operations support spending.
Guidance from the administration on what steps federal agencies should take to prepare for potential across-the-board budget cuts has set off a war of words between federal-employee unions and industry groups. The American Federation of Government Employees says guidance exempts contractors at the expense of federal employees, but industry groups say the criticism is misguided.
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service will implement significant cost-cutting measures next week to prepare for the possibility of automatic spending cuts due to hit government in March. DFAS plans to freeze most hiring, reduce travel and overtime, and temporarily halt new employee performance awards, according to DFAS Director Terri McKay.
Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have proposed an alternative to the automatic budget cuts set to go into effect next month that includes reducing the size of the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition.
As sequestration draws nearer, contractor groups have pointed to alarming studies that show the 9 percent in across-the-board Defense cuts would throw at least 1 million people out of work and potentially cripple the defense and aerospace industries. But in a new report, the Center for International Policy, a nonprofit group which advocates reducing military spending, presented evidence that far fewer defense-sector jobs would be lost than industry has claimed and that defense companies would likely be able to absorb the defense cuts.
As the Internal Revenue Service prepares to enter tax season full-bore, the agency is faced with a tightened budget, a shrinking workforce and an ever-more complex and increasing workload. That combination, along with leadership changes at the top of agency, threatens to upend the gains IRS has made over the past few years to better manage its workforce, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, an agency watchdog.