Countdown: Election impact on feds, new data on fed pay

The Federal News Countdown welcomed Tim McManus of Partnership for Public Service and Stan Soloway of Professional Services Council.

On this week’s Federal News Countdown:
Tim McManus, Vice President, Partnership for Public Service
Stan Soloway, President and CEO, Professional Services Council

Tim McManus’ stories
#3 Federal salaries fall further behind public sector, new data show
From The Washington Post:

Official numbers released by the government last week show salaries of federal workers falling slightly further behind their private-sector counterparts in the past year, by an average of 2.1 percent across the country.

The disparity shows wide variations among the 31 regions where the government compares federal pay with salaries for private-sector jobs in order to determine pay raises. The Washington-Baltimore area, for example, showed one of the largest gaps, with federal workers 38 percent behind the private sector.

The new numbers were in Friday’s annual report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to the Federal Salary Council, a presidentially appointed panel tasked with recommending pay for federal workers. The gap cited Friday will help the council recommend government raises to President Obama for 2012. Congress has not approved a raise for 2011.

#2 Federal hiring changes bring hope, skepticism for application process
From The Washington Post:

President Obama in May gave federal agencies until this week to radically overhaul the federal hiring process, mandating simply worded job descriptions and the end of the lengthy “KSAs,” or essays that describe an applicant’s knowledge, skills and abilities. Applicants for federal employment should be able to apply and be rejected or hired in about 80 days once changes are fully implemented.

Officials have backed off the president’s deadline, however, cautioning that only some agencies are ready. The departments of Commerce, Defense and Veterans Affairs and NASA are in good shape, but others are working through reforms that could take years to complete, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

#1 Pay Freeze and Job Cuts, and Furloughs, Oh My!
From Federal News Radio:

The decisive 2011 Republican take-over of the House is being taken very seriously by the White House and grateful survivor Democrats. And it’s likely to mean major changes for federal workers that could not only have the backing of the newly empowered GOP majority but of a “we-got-the-message!” White House as well.

So what does the Republican takeover of the House mean to the government, and government workers?

Stan Soloway’s stories
#3 The trouble with security:
Leaked military documents reignite the debate over hiring private security firms in Iraq, and Afghanistan
From Maclean’s:

The [Wikileaks] documents have surfaced at a time when the Obama administration is preparing to engage more security contractors in Iraq as part of its military drawdown. U.S. troops are supposed to complete their exit from Iraq by the end of 2011, while civilians from the State Department remain in Iraq to run the new U.S. Embassy and provide reconstruction and development. But thousands of private security contractors will be brought in to take on the security roles of the departing soldiers—and “State will have no practical alternative to meet its continuing security and support needs in Iraq than by greatly increasing its contracting,” says a July 12 report of the congressionally appointed commission on wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are already 18,800 private security contractors working in Iraq under various U.S. government contracts. The State Department alone will have to increase its 2,700 security contractors by 6,000 to 7,000 more, according to testimony received by the commission. But already the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been called the most privatized in history.

#2 Clapper promises thought will go into intelligence contract cuts
From Federal Times:

NEW ORLEANS — The director of national intelligence told an audience of contractors and intelligence workers to brace for cutbacks in service contracts, but he promised that these cuts would be made gradually and according to a strategic plan.

“What I’d look to do is profit from what happened to us in the 1990s, and lay out a strategy for this and absorb the pain smartly,” retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper said in a speech Tuesday at the GEOINT 2010 Symposium.

Clapper was referring to the period after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the U.S. cut intelligence staffing and spending to reap what Clapper called the “peace dividend.” After the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the U.S. rushed to restore staffing, and it did so by hiring contractors.

Now it is time to reduce service contracts, Clapper said. But this time, he said, the reductions would be implemented slowly over a period of two to three years.

#1 White House, Congress poised for battle over tax breaks in lame-duck session
From The Washington Post:

The White House and a transformed Congress are bracing for a high-stakes battle later this month over a host of expiring tax breaks and benefits for the unemployed that will mark the first test of the new political dynamic in Washington.

If President Obama, his weakened Democratic allies and a resurgent Republican Party cannot find a way to work together, taxes will rise sharply in January for virtually every American taxpayer, and more than 3 million people will lose their unemployment checks – which together could suck more than $300 billion out of the pockets of consumers and business owners next year.

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