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DorobekInsider: Sen. elect Brown: Feds making 2X the private sector

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Federal employees making twice as much as their private sector counterparts, right?

That’s what Senator-elect Scott Brown said during his interview Sunday with Barbara Walters on ABC News’ This Week:

Brown and Walters

Photo: ABC News

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.

Written by cdorobek

February 1, 2010 at 8:26 AM

DorobekInsider: Johnson’s GSA nomination moves one step closer with cloture

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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.

Stay tuned.

Written by cdorobek

January 28, 2010 at 7:26 PM

DorobekInsider: Did the President all-but mention GSA administrator nominee Johnson at the State of the Union?

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Most of probably watched the State of the Union address last night — President Obama’s first State of the Union address.

Over all, there wasn’t much for feds specifically — he called for the end of the Defense Department’s gays in the military bad…

State of the Union 2010

President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 27, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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.

Some people tweeted that lawmakers could do that on the Library of Congress’s Thomas Web site.

* 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.

WP’s Federal Eye blogger Ed O’Keefe has more.

See the entire speech here… or read the full transcript here.

Of course, I’m also watching the State of the Union 2.0 aspects where the White House is seeking questions on YouTube — and he will address them later.

Written by cdorobek

January 28, 2010 at 2:58 PM

DorobekInsider: State of the Union history

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President Obama gives his first State of the Union address tonight just days after his first year in office and days befire the administration issues its first full budget. And this White House is doing something like State of the Union 2.0 taking question on YouTube among other things.

There are some interesting highlights on the history of this speech, which is generally a big deal here in Washington.

The Congressional Research Service has actually published a FAQ on the State of the Union [PDF or Flash version] — which I have also posted below.

According to the Clerk of the House:

The formal basis for the State of the Union address is from the U.S. Constitution:

  • The President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Article II, Section 3, Clause 1.

The constitutionally mandated presidential address has gone through a few name changes:

  • It was formally known as the Annual Message from 1790 to 1934.
  • It began to be informally called the State of the Union address from 1942 to 1946.
  • Since 1947 it has generally been known as the State of the Union address.

According to the State:

On January 27, 2010, President Barack Obama will fulfill his constitutional duty to “give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union” (Article II, Section3). Presidents George Washington and John Adams delivered their messages in person, but in 1801 Thomas Jefferson chose to send his in writing. That precedent held until Woodrow Wilson decided to deliver his message in person in 1913, a tradition that continues today. Franklin Roosevelt referred to it as the “State of the Union Address,” a title that became official during the Harry Truman administration. The first radio broadcast of the message occurred in 1923, and the 1947 address was the first televised. View a list of speakers before joint sessions of Congress. Read a report from the Congressional Research Service. See a list of opposition responses to the annual address. Each year, one member of the President’s cabinet is absent from the address, to maintain the line of succession in case of an emergency.

The BBC has a great primer on the State of the Union Address.

And you can read State of the Union addresses through history from the Government Printing Office.

We’ll see what the President has to say tonight.

View this document on Scribd

Written by cdorobek

January 27, 2010 at 3:27 PM

DorobekInsider: New GSA deputy administrator is finally official — Susan Brita to start Feb. 2

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It has been one of the worst kept secrets in town but it is now official in the halls of GSA — Susan Brita, who most recently served as the Staff Director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, will join the General Services Administration as deputy administrator on Feb. 2.

Brita previously served at GSA from 1985 to 1988, where she was the chief of staff to then GSA Administrator Terence Golden.

Brita replaces Barnaby (Barney) L. Brasseux, who quietly stepped down earlier this month.

Meanwhile, there still is no word on a new GSA chief of staff after Danielle Germain stepped down earlier this month. And, of course, the nomination of Martha Johnson to be GSA administrator is still deeply in limbo.

Here is the note sent to staff from GSA Acting Administrator Steve Leeds sent to “GSAers” this afternoon:

Good Afternoon GSAers,

I want to share a very exciting announcement with you. On February 2, we will welcome Susan Brita back to GSA as our next Deputy Administrator. Susan’s 27 years of public service will be a strong addition to our GSA leadership team.

Most recently, Susan served as the Staff Director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, a position she has held since 1992. During her tenure, Susan’s broad portfolio, which included GSA, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Architect of the Capitol, gave her the opportunity to focus on each phase of Federal real property management.

Susan is no stranger to the broad spectrum of services GSA provides; from 1985 to 1988 she served as Chief of Staff to then Administrator Terence Golden, where she worked closely on agencywide initiatives.

Susan received her Master’s Degree with honors in Public Administration from George Washington University in Washington D.C. and a B.A. from Cardinal Cushing College in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Please join me in welcoming Susan to our team!


Steve Leeds
Acting Administrator

Written by cdorobek

January 22, 2010 at 2:37 PM

DorobekInsider: BREAKING NEWS — Sens. Collins, McCaskill, Bennett introduce acquisition workforce bills

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UPDATED with the text of the bills…

Breaking news — Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Bob Bennett (R-UT) have just introduced two bills that seek to improve the federal acquisition workforce.

The Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act of 2009 would create a federal acquisition management fellows program to help mention a new generation of acquisition leaders with government-wide perspective, skills and experience. Read the text of the bill here.

The second bill is the Federal Acquisition Institute Improvement Act of 2009 and it would prompt a reorganization allowing the Federal Acquisition Institute to help fulfill its mission. Read the text of the bill here.

Here is the full release:

The bipartisan measures stress mentoring, career development, management

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Improving the federal acquisition workforce system through training and better management is the focus of two bills that were introduced Thursday by Senators Susan Collins, R-Me., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Bob Bennett, R-Ut.

The first bill, “The Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act of 2009,” would create a federal acquisition management fellows program to help mentor a new generation of acquisition leaders with government-wide perspective, skills, and experience. It would combine both a Master’s degree-level academic curriculum with on-the-job training in multiple federal agencies. By partnering with leading universities that have specialized government acquisition programs, the government can attract top-caliber students who are interested in pursuing both academic advancement and public service.

The second bill, “The Federal Acquisition Institute Improvement Act of 2009,” would prompt reorganization, allowing the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI) to fulfill its mission of aiding career development and maximizing the potential of federal acquisition workforce.

“The federal acquisition system is under tremendous stress,” said Senator Collins. “Between fiscal years 2000 and 2008, acquisition spending by the federal government expanded by 163 percent, from $205 billion to $539 billion. The rising costs of military operations, natural disasters, homeland security precautions, and other vital programs will drive those expenditures to even higher levels in the years ahead.”

This requires professionally trained and invested acquisition personnel, who can manage these huge expenditures while also guarding against the possibility of waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars. “This prodigious level of purchasing creates abundant opportunities for fraud, waste, and abuse. We have seen far too many outrageous failures in government contracting, such as unusable trailers for hurricane victims, shoddy construction of schools and clinics in Afghanistan, or the installation of showers in Iraq for our troops that pose electric-shock hazards. These and other failures demand strong steps to protect taxpayer dollars and deliver better acquisition outcomes.”

Said Senator McCaskill: “With the increases we’ve seen in government contracting, it is unacceptable that our acquisition workforce is falling behind in terms of training and resources they need to effectively oversee spending. If we want to improve the way the government spends money, we need more well-trained people on the front lines so that they can better prevent waste, fraud, and abuse by writing and carrying out good contracts. This will ensure that the taxpayers are getting the best bang for their buck.”

Added Senator Bennett: “Responsible federal contracting relies on careful, informed analysis by all components of the acquisition workforce. Workforce development is a pillar for strengthened acquisition practices and improved performance. Without a well trained and capable acquisition workforce, our federal contracting efforts will not improve.”

Senator Collins, a long-time advocate for stronger competition, accountability, and transparency in government contracting, said she recognizes and appreciates “the steps the Administration has taken recently to improve federal contracting. Many of these initiatives originated from legislation I co-authored with Senator Lieberman, ID-Conn., during the last Congress. But no matter how many laws we pass or OMB guidance documents are issued, the effectiveness of our federal acquisition system depends on a vital human component – the acquisition workforce.”

While contract spending has risen dramatically, the number of acquisition professionals who help plan, award, and oversee these contracts has been stagnant. And with roughly half of the current acquisition workforce eligible to retire over the next decade, the difficulties of strengthening that workforce will become increasingly acute. A well-trained and well-resourced acquisition workforce is critical to keeping pace with increased federal spending and much more complex procurements of services and goods.

The Obama Administration has identified acquisition workforce development as a pillar for improving acquisition practices and contract performance.

To make that goal a reality, the three Senators authored the two bills in order to deliver specific and concrete action to solve the problem. The Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act and the Federal Acquisition Institute Improvement Act are critically needed and both enjoy bipartisan support. The Senators urged their colleagues to support the measures.

Written by cdorobek

December 17, 2009 at 3:38 PM

DorobekInsider: Rumoring around the halls of GSA — playing GSA musical chairs

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There is a lot of buzz surrounding the General Services Administration, so… I’m saying this up front — this is all unconfirmed, but… it is the buzz. (That caveat allows me to say ‘as theDorobekInsider reported’ if it is true… but gives me cover if it isn’t… and things are changing so quickly.)

* The Johnson nomination: We’re hearing that the nomination of Martha Johnson to be the administrator of the General Services Administration may just be brought to a cloture vote. (For those who don’t know — I had to look it up — is the process of breaking a filibuster.) And for those who haven’t been following it as closely, Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) has a hold on the Johnson nomination ostensibly about the development of a federal facility in Kansas City. But we hear that development is really just a side show for what has become a somewhat bitter political battle between Bond and friends and GSA and the administration. We hear that GSA has numbers that shows the Bond development proposal is a bad deal for the government. I haven’t been able to get my hands on that information. But I also hear that GSA has acted somewhat unartfully in its dealings with Bond. Regardless, unlike some senators who are very open and transparent when they put a hold on a nomination, Bond and his staff have not. It seems unfair and to disregard important work that GSA is trying to accomplish. Anyway, the talk on Capitol Hill is that Johnson’s name is among a list of people that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is looking to bring to a vote. There had been some talk of a recess nomination — or even another administration post for Johnson. UPDATE: We’re hearing that any action on Capitol Hill might not come until January.

* Who will be acting in the meantime?: There are rampant rumors that Paul Prouty, the current acting administrator who has made no secret of his desire to return to his home in Denver — he has teenage children, one of whom will be heading off to college very soon and DadProuty would like to spend time with his kids and family. But we also hear that there is a time period — 270 days — after which nominees have to start paying local taxes. I haven’t been able to find information on it, but… Prouty has to be approaching that timetable. Prouty tells me: “Everyone knows I’m eager to go home; however, nothing to report.”

* Acting Administrator Leeds?: Who might replace Prouty? Many pings that it might be Stephen Leeds, who in August took the post as Senior Counselor to the GSA Administrator. (The link to his bio page from GSA’s leadership Web site wasn’t working for me.) One person described Leeds as a “placeholder,” but it raises some concern given that Leeds has been with GSA for all of four months. While people are impressed by him personally, it is a difficult job to step into at best… and nobody knows how long they may just serve in that post. Just askProuty.

* Brasseux to retire — by the end of the year: That is what people are saying — GSA deputy administrator Barnaby (Barney) L. Brasseux, who has been serving in that post since September 2008. We hear that administration officials had offered him the opportunity to return to be deputy commissioner at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, a post that will be vacated by Tyree Varnado starting in January, but Brasseux has decided to retire. (Hear our delightful exit interview with Varnado from Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris here.)

* So who becomes GSA’s deputy administrator? We’re hearing Susan Brita, who is a staff director on Capitol Hill — we’re hearing an announcement could come early next year. Apparently Brita has been strongly pushed by Rep. Elenore Holmes Norton (D-DC).

* GSA FAS deputy — no names floating: With Varnado retiring, there is no name yet for that key post. There is some concern amongst GSA watchers that there is a lot of procurement knowledge that is either retiring — or planning on retiring — leaving potential gaps in key positions.

Things are evolving very quickly, so… we’re trying to keep an eye on all of it.

As we say in radio… stay tuned.

Written by cdorobek

December 17, 2009 at 1:14 PM