Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category
Federal workers and contractors seemly have dodged yet another shutdown — I’ve actually lost count about how many there have been this year. (Federal Computer Week says there have been five.)
Last night, I was invited to the annual holiday party hosted by ASI Government, formerly Acquisition Solutions. Not surprising, the buzz of the night was about… the change of leadership at ASI Government — former Agriculture Department CIO Anne Reed stepping into the role of chairwoman after seven years, and Kimberly “Kymm” McCabe has taken over the role as ASI Government’s President and Chief Executive Officer…
McCabe specifically mentioned the end of the war in Iraq…
But most of the focus was on… the then potential of a government shutdown. Last night, as the festivities were going on, there seemed to be progress toward a resolution, but it was only late last night that the sides announced they had found common ground. But there was still interesting discussion around the topic. One person — now in industry after a distinguished government career — said that the shutdown threat had almost become SOP. It has become standard operating procedure. Yet several govies showed up late specifically because they were working on shutdown contingency plans.
But 1105 President Anne Armstrong asked about the costs of all this.
The short answer is… there is no easy answer.
The Congressional Research Service actually looked at the shutdown issue back in September 1995.
The estimated costs of shutting down the federal government during a lapse in appropriations are incomplete and sketchy at best. That is especially true in the brief shutdown periods that occurred prior to 1995. In those federal shutdown experiences, the General Accounting Office (GAO) attempted to evaluate such government-wide costs, but incomplete and lack of response by various agencies hampered this undertaking. Certain limited costs have been identified over the years, however. GAO found costs of about $1 million resulting from having to issue split or late paychecks in October 1979 and approximately $1.1 million from having to prepare agency shutdown plans in 1980.
In 1991, GAO found that the estimated partial costs for the federal government shutdown over the Columbus Day Holiday week-end in 1990 was $1.7 million.
There have been two other CRS reports — one on September 27, 2010: Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects. The other is more of a round-up of information about shutdowns from April 8, 2011: Past Government Shutdowns: Key Resources.
Regardless, there was almost uniform agreement among government insiders that the shutdown threats, ongoing continuing resolutions and general budget upheaval have an enormous impact on the government’s ability to accomplish agency missions. (Going out on a limb there, aren’t we?)
To be honest, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has seemed to put forward 12 fairly reasonable principles for the discussion — regardless of political viewpoint.
The 12 principles are:
- Make Deficit Reduction a Top Priority.
- Propose Specific Fiscal Targets.
- Recommend Specific Policies to Achieve the Targets.
- Do No Harm.
- Use Honest Numbers and Avoid Budget Gimmicks.
- Do Not Perpetuate Budget Myths.
- Do Not Attack Someone Else’s Plan Without Putting Forward an Alternative.
- Refrain From Pledges That Take Policies Off the Table.
- Propose Specific Solutions for Social Security, Health Care, and the Tax Code.
- Offer Solutions for Temporary and Expiring Policies.
- Encourage Congress to Come Up With a Budget Reform Plan as Quickly as Possible.
- Remain Open to Bipartisan Compromise.
Find the September 1997 CRS report after the break…
Happy New Year! What a great time to look back – and look forward… and to think about fresh starts.
The coming months are going to be interesting, no doubt.
All week, I’ll bring the most read items across Federal News Radio’s programs – Mike Causey tomorrow; the Federal Drive on Wednesday; FederalNewsRadio.com on Thursday; and In Depth on Friday.
But today, the 100 most read items on the DorobekINSIDER:
The House passed a continuing resolution to keep the government open three more days—until Dec. 21.
The House passed the bill by voice vote today.
Congress passed a CR earlier this month to keep the government open through Dec. 18.
The Senate hoped to pass an omnibus appropriations bill, but Major Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pulled the bill Friday. Reid said Thursday that he would work out a short-term CR with the Republicans, but as of 6 p.m. Friday no deal had been worked out yet, according to a Senate Appropriations Committee spokesman.
The Senate must pass a CR by midnight on Sunday to avoid a government shutdown.
Senate Republicans are calling for a longer-term CR through mid-February. The White House earlier this week said it supported a year-long CR keeping funding at 2010 levels.
Democrats had hoped to pass a much broader spending bill to fund the government through fiscal year 2011. But faced with a lack of Republican support, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) scrapped that $1.1 trillion bill Thursday in favor of a shorter-term fix, keeping spending at current levels.
Earlier on the DorobekINSIDER: POLITICO report Shira Toeplitz with analysis of why the omnibus spending bill failed.
Buried at the Homeland Security Department’s so-called “bottom up review” — a review of all DHS operations — is a very telling chart: The amount of oversight that Homeland Security undergoes
How is that for shocking!
Read the full report here. [PDF - note, the report is 72 pages] This is on the last page.
Read and hear Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s report on the bottom up review.
It appears that the effort to pass a cyber-security bill is going to get a bit more tough then expected.
Late last month, officials from Cisco, IBM and Oracle sent a letter to the main sponsors of the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, S. 3480 — Senators Joe Lieberman (DI-Conn.) Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tom Carper (D-Del.). The letter raised concerns about some provisions of the bill:
While well intentioned, it ultimately puts U.S. critical infrastructure at increased risk by threatening the intellectual property of American companies that create the IT that operates the vast majority of U.S. government and private-sector critical networks and systems. The unintended result may be a weakening of the domestic software and hardware industry to an extent that could, ironically, leave the U.S. more dependent upon foreign suppliers for their critical IT systems.
The letter goes on to raise specific concerns about detailed provisions of the bill. You can read the full copy of the letter here.
The Senators issued a forceful response — a letter addressed specifically to the heads of those companies — and it was posted right on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Web site. In the response, they refer to the concerns as “mischaracterizations” of the bill:
This legislation is informed by years of oversight by this Committee and is the result of more than a year of drafting. Our staff spent considerable time working with industry representatives – including representatives from your companies – and the bill, as reported, addresses many of the concerns your companies raised during that time…
Your input on this important legislation is important to our Committee, and both our staff and yours have invested considerable time in this process. While we find the mischaracterizations of our bill in your letter inaccurate and disappointing, we welcome further discussion and hope that we can engage in a constructive dialogue going forward.
Meanwhile, Politico’s Morning Tech is reporting that the House version of the bill is having some trouble.
Staff representing the Senate’s top players in the cybersecurity debate – Rockefeller, Snowe, Collins, Lieberman, Carper – will begin huddling this week over ways to merge the chamber’s top two proposals. But the path forward in the House is still unclear.
The lower chamber’s version of the Lieberman-Collins-Carper plan, spearheaded by Reps. Jane Harman and Pete King, is still pending consideration by a slew of committees that all share jurisdiction. And the committee closest to the action – the House Homeland Security panel – plans to introduce its own bill soon, pitched by Chairman Thompson. Meanwhile, a Senate Dem aide tells Morning Tech that it is unclear whether Rep. Jim Langevin, another cybersecurity leader, is writing his own comprehensive legislation. Stay tuned.
IT WILL BE THE HOUSE SCI/TECH COMMITTEE that will take the first stab at cybersecurity once both chambers return from recess next week. The Technology and Innovation Subcommittee announced late Tuesday it had invited industry leaders from EPIC, the Institute for Defense Analyses, the Council on Foreign Relations and Ponte Technologies to its scheduled July 15 hearing – and it promises additional witness announcements to come soon.
We’ve been following the saga forever, but the vote finally happened Thursday afternoon — we had it live as it happened on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris — the Senate first voted to close debate on the Johnson nomination … and then proceeded to confirm Martha N. Johnson as the new administrator of the General Services Administration.
We hear that the swearing in ceremony will take place Tuesday, February 9th at 2p at GSA headquarters. (I’m working on official confirmation, but… this is the word at the moment.)
One curious note: When the vote was first taken, it was 94-2 — four senators (Coburn, Benett, Isaskson and Hutchinson) did not vote — and two senators, Jim Bunning and Jeff Sessions, voted against. But the officially tally as posted by the Senate’s Web site shows a 96-0 vote. I’m not sure how that works, exactly. And, ironically, Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) — the senator who had held up Johnson’s vote — voted to confirm Johnson. But that came after an impassioned floor speech.
That’s the news. Below, you’ll find Johnson’s first public comments coming from the GSA press release… Sens. Lieberman and Collins comments… and Bond’s floor speech itself…
First off, Johnson speaks out in a GSA press release:
“My priority as Administrator will be to put GSA’s expertise to work developing and executing policies and products that will create a greener, more efficient, more cost-effective, more open, and more responsible government,” Johnson added. “By building on GSA’s success thus far, we will provide a streamlined platform for our customer agencies to implement innovative technologies and solutions to decrease government operating costs and increase efficiencies in government service delivery.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Kit Bond’s floor speech about GSA and Martha Johnson, which runs about 12-minutes:
I have also pulled selective clips from Sen. Bond’s speech.
Here is Bond defending his hold – particularly after President Obama chided senators for holds for unrelated items, although he didn’t mention Bond or anybody by name. Here is the President on Tuesday:
We’ve got a huge backlog of folks who are unanimously viewed as well qualified, nobody has a specific objection to them, but end up having a hold on them because of some completely unrelated piece of business. That’s an example … of the kind of stuff that Americans just don’t understand.
Bond says the people he is protecting are the feds in Kansas City (0:27):
Bond: Johnson’s qualifications are not in doubt (0:12)
Bond: GSA needs to do their job (0:17)
Finally, the release from Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee :
LIEBERMAN, COLLINS HAIL MARTHA JOHNSON’S CONFIRMATION
Senate Votes 94-2
WASHINGTON—Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Thursday welcomed the confirmation of Martha Johnson to be General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator. Johnson, who was unanimously approved by the Committee on June 8, 2009, was confirmed by a vote of 94-2. Her confirmation had been blocked for six months for reasons unrelated to her qualifications.
“I am delighted the Senate has finally voted to confirm Ms. Johnson, an extremely qualified and experienced nominee, so she can begin her important work on behalf of the American people,” Lieberman said. “The hold that had been placed on her for six months had nothing to do with her qualifications or personal history. Her nomination received the unanimous support of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in June and she has overwhelming bipartisan support in the full Senate.
“We cannot continue the practice of holding nominees ‘hostage’ for parochial reasons unrelated to a nominee’s ability to do the job they’ve been they’ve been nominated for. These kinds of things anger the public and damage the Senate as an institution.
“Given her experience as a former GSA Chief of Staff, Ms. Johnson knows the agency inside and out and is prepared to hit the ground running. I am grateful that GSA will now have the stable leadership it needs.”
Collins said: “Martha Johnson has significant experience in both the private sector and the federal government. She served previously as GSA’s Chief of Staff, helping to lead that agency at a time of substantial change. Today, the GSA faces even greater challenges and demands than when Ms. Johnson served there more than eight years ago. I am confidence she will provide much-needed leadership to this agency that provides many important procurement services to the federal government.”
Yesterday on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke with Bob Woods, the president of TopSide Consulting and the former commissioner of GSA’s then Federal Technology Service. He noted that one of the challenges Johnson faces is the pent up anticipation around her nomination — there is so much hope for her, if she doesn’t walk on water, people will end up being disappointed.
I’m sure she will be getting a lot of advice in the coming days, weeks, months… and years.
It was thought that Tuesday might be GSA V-Day — as in Vote Day where the Senate would move along Martha Johnson’s long delayed nomination to be the administrator of the General Services Administration. But the phrase “so close yet so far” seems to be apt at this point.
We found out Tuesday evening that it was unlikely that the Senate would vote on the Johnson nomination.
Instead, the Senate spent most of the day debating the nomination of Patricia Smith to be the Labor Department solicitor. Smith’s nomination is controversial because she is accused of lying to lawmakers.
Because both the Smith and Johnson nomination have been held, Senate lawmakers have to take two votes for these nominations. The first is the vote on the cloture motion — technically, as I understand it, when a Senator puts a “hold” on a nomination, the nomination is open for debate. The cloture vote simply closes debate. And then it would all senators to move to the YES or NO vote for the confirmation. And the Senate has yet to complete work on Smith’s nomination before moving on to the Johnson cloture vote and, eventually, the actual confirmation vote.
Unlike Smith’s more controversial nomination, there haven’t been any questions about Johnson’s qualifications. To the contrary, most people have praised her qualifications and skills.
That being said, the Senate is now saying that action on Johnson’s nomination will not come until Thursday:
Johnson Nomination–Agreement: A unanimous-consent-time agreement was reached providing that on Thursday, February 4, 2010, upon disposition of the nomination of M. Patricia Smith, of New York, to be Solicitor for the Department of Labor, Senate resume consideration of the nomination of Martha N. Johnson, of Maryland, to be Administrator of General Services, and that there be two hours of debate prior to a vote on the motion to invoke cloture thereon; with the time equally divided and controlled between the two Leaders, or their designees ; that upon the use of time, Senate vote on the motion to invoke cloture thereon; that if cloture is invoked, all post-cloture time be yielded back, and Senate then vote on confirmation of the nomination.
Just last week, Bond again took GSA to task over the Kansas City federal building. This story is from Kansas City Star reporter Kevin Collison from just last week — January 28:
Bond blasts agency over plans for federal offices in downtown KC [January 28, 2010, Kansas City Star]
Sen. Kit Bond continues to battle a Washington official over a proposed federal office building for downtown Kansas City.
City officials remain confident the $175 million project is on track. But in a letter this week, Bond, a Missouri Republican, accused Robert Peck, the public building service commissioner for the federal General Services Administration, of failing to follow through on a promise to put funds in the 2011 budget.
The proposal, which would consolidate about 1,200 federal workers now at the Bannister Federal Complex into a new downtown building, has been in the works for several years.
It originally was proposed to be a private development, where the GSA would lease the space and the building would generate local taxes. But Peck said in October his office would support the plan only if it was built and owned by the government.
The story goes on to say that Bond and Peck were to meet sometime this week.
Back in August, we spoke with Kansas City Star reporter Kevin Collison on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris for background on the federal building deal. Get more here.
We are on full Johnson watch and we’ll let you know what happens.
Federal employees making twice as much as their private sector counterparts, right?
WALTERS: President Obama has asked for a spending freeze on almost everything except matters like the military, Social Security, and Medicare. He says he’s going line by line through the budget. Now, you have said that’s not enough for you; that you want to cut spending and not just freeze it.
So what are the first 3 items that you would cut?
BROWN: The problem with what the president said is he’s not doing it until 2011. We need to do it immediately. We need to put a freeze on federal hires and federal raises because, as you know, federal employees are making twice as much as their private counterparts.
We all remember the USAToday story from December (from which Brown likely got his stats): For feds, more get 6-figure salaries: Average pay $30,000 over private sector.
Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession’s first 18 months — and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.
Federal workers are enjoying an extraordinary boom time — in pay and hiring — during a recession that has cost 7.3 million jobs in the private sector…
The trend to six-figure salaries is occurring throughout the federal government, in agencies big and small, high-tech and low-tech. The primary cause: substantial pay raises and new salary rules.
I don’t highlight this as a ‘got ya,’ but this is the perception that feds run up against — they’re overpaid and people believe they can’t get the job done.
The DorobekInsider told you it was likely to happen — and in fact it has: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) tonight filed a cloture motion for Martha Johnson’s long pending nomination, Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller confirmed.
Reid’s folks say that the cloture vote hasn’t been set yet, but… the fact that they are moving forward is a significant step.
Essentially, the “cloture” vote means that the Senate would vote to bring debate to an end. Technically, when a senator puts a “hold” on the nomination, it means they want to continue debate. So the cloture vote would bring that “debate” to an end — and the Senate would then have to vote on the Johnson nomination itself.
This would mark an important step for GSA, which has been without a permanent administration since Lurita Doan left that post nearly two years ago. And it would mark an end to a prolonged nomination process for Johnson, most of which has focused on a federal building project in Kansas City, MO.
Back in April, the White House nominated Martha Johnson, a chief of staff at GSA under former administrator David Barrum, to be the GSA administrator. She made it through the Senate committee in June. In August, Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) confirmed that he had put a hold on Johnson’s nomination because of a Kansas City, MO federal building. And last night in the State of the Union address, President Obama urged senators to take action on the number of pending nominations.
The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn’t be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators.
What are we watching for next? The cloture vote needs to be scheduled — and that would be followed by a vote on the nomination.
DorobekInsider: Did the President all-but mention GSA administrator nominee Johnson at the State of the Union?
Over all, there wasn’t much for feds specifically — he called for the end of the Defense Department’s gays in the military bad…
But the President did say this:
What frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of — (applause) — I’m speaking to both parties now. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn’t be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators.
Was he specifically talking about Martha Johnson’s nomination to be the administrator of the General Services Administration? Who knows. We told you earlier that the Johnson nomination — and the other held nominations — were expected to come to a cloture vote soon after the vote on Ben Bernake’s nomination for a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, but I’m hearing that the cloture vote might not actually happen until next month.
Other quotes from the State of the Union address:
* A proposal to make college more affordable — particularly for those who select public service:
To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. (Applause.) Instead, let’s take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. (Applause.) And let’s tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years –- and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.
* Earmark transparency on Capitol Hill
I’m also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform… You’ve trimmed some of this spending, you’ve embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight, I’m calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there’s a vote, so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.
* Gays in the military
We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we’re all created equal; that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else. We must continually renew this promise. My administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination. We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate. This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.