Silver Screen Feds returns this week with an in-depth look at a major character from this year’s best new TV show: the Cold War spy drama “The Americans.” I’ve enjoyed watching the gifted, flawed FBI counterintelligence agent Stan Beeman unfold over this show’s premiere season. And after watching its May Day finale, I decided that Beeman is too complicated to shoehorn into a narrow “best” or “worst” category, so I’m going to examine both sides of his character. MAJOR SPOILERS for the first season follow.
“The Americans” primarily focuses on Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, two KGB agents who have been living undercover in Northern Virginia for decades, posing as husband and wife and raising two children while spying for the Soviet Union. As the show begins, right after President Reagan’s 1981 inauguration, Beeman and his estranged family move in next door to the Jenningses.
Beeman (played by Noah Emmerich, who we previously profiled as the CDC scientist in “The Walking Dead”) is extraordinarily good at the spy game, often thinking three moves ahead of his adversaries. Early on, he catches a Soviet embassy clerk named Nina selling Russian caviar to the black market, and uses that information to turn her into a double agent. Beeman’s new mole begins feeding him valuable information on what is going on inside the rezidentura, allowing him to identify hidden Soviet spies and a sleeper cell of collaborating Americans.
The Navy today told its employees that furlough letters — which were scheduled to go out Monday — will be delayed until further notice.
A Navy official told Federal Times that because the service hadn’t gotten the final furlough policy from the Pentagon, it was putting its notification effort on hold. Unless Navy hears otherwise, it is still expecting to furlough employees for up to 14 days by the end of fiscal 2013.
“We understand [the furlough process] causes angst and concern, and to mitigate that, we’ve tried to be as informative as we can,” a Navy official said. “Until we get that policy officially, we won’t be able to put out official notifications.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to announce his decision soon — perhaps as soon as next week — on how broad the furloughs will be.
The Navy, like all federal agencies, must give employees 30 days of official notice before it can actually furlough them. If the Navy’s notices went out May 6, as originally planned, that would mean June 5 would have been the earliest furloughs could begin. That would leave 16 weeks to furlough employees before the end of the fiscal year in September. But the delay in issuing notices could shorten that window.
A 32-year-old Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, who was one of more than 170 people wounded in Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon, was discharged from a local hospital Wednesday. In an e-mail to Federal Times today, ICE said the unnamed, off-duty officer sustained non-life threatening injuries and had surgery Tuesday.
ICE did not say whether the officer was a runner or spectator, but said he lives in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston.
Federal Times reported yesterday that an ICE officer had been wounded. The Office of Personnel Management said it was unaware of any other wounded federal employees.
In other news, OPM said Wednesday it has received the Boston Federal Executive Board’s request for a special solicitation to benefit victims of the bombing, and that it expects to make a decision soon.
President Obama this afternoon bid farewell to departing Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry today in a statement:
John Berry has served the American people well as Director of the Office of Personnel Management. He’s streamlined the way federal employees are hired, modernized the workplace, made the federal workforce more diverse, and increased the number of returning servicemembers hired by the government. John has been a champion for federal workers – men and women who devote their lives to vital tasks like securing our borders, curing disease, and keeping the American people safe. This country is better off because of John’s talent and dedication, and I’m grateful to him for his service.
After the jump, you can find Berry’s complete goodbye message to OPM staff.
Make sure you keep checking FederalTimes.com through the day for up-to-the-minute coverage of the White House’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal. The budget will go online at 11:15 a.m. today, and the Federal Times crew will immediately start diving into the numbers to find out who are the winners and who are the losers. (Although given the way things have been going lately, we expect a lot more losers than winners this year.)
We already know that President Obama is going to propose switching to the chained CPI, and cutting federal retirement benefits by $35 billion. Check our story from last Friday for more on what that means for you.
The average federal salary increased nearly $1,000 last year — from $77,505 in fiscal 2011 to $78,467 — according to statistics posted online by the Office of Personnel Management yesterday.
How can that be, you ask, when federal pay has been frozen for more than two years now? The increase highlights a point we’ve made several times — that the pay freeze isn’t actually a total pay freeze. It’s a freeze on the pay scales. Within-grade step increases — which bump many feds up to a higher level of pay every one, two or three years — were left untouched by President Obama’s pay freeze, as were promotions. This means that hundreds of thousands of federal employees have still gotten pay raises, despite the pay scale freeze.
In all, the average federal salary has gone up $1,881 since the freeze began. In fiscal 2010, the average pay was $76,586. The freeze did slow down the rate of increase, however — between fiscal 2008 and 2010, before it went into effect, the average federal salary increased more than $5,000.
When I wrote Federal Times’ story on the freeze in December 2010, I estimated these step increase raises during the (then two-year) pay scale freeze would cost the government at least $2.5 billion. These numbers tell me I drastically underestimated that figure, partly because I had no way to estimate how many feds would get promotions. If 2.1 million federal employees got, on average, $1,881 in raises, that comes close to $4 billion.
Tags: pay freeze
The White House will host a who’s-who of legendary soul musicians and modern stars Tuesday night in its latest “In Performance” concert.
This will be the tenth “In Performance at the White House” show, and will focus on Memphis Soul. Several artists from the classic Stax-Volt record label will be featured, most notably Mavis Staples, who sang classics such as “I’ll Take You There.” Guitarist Steve Cropper (who played for Booker T and the MGs, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and pretty much everybody else on the Stax-Volt label), Sam Moore from Sam and Dave, “Knock on Wood” singer Eddie Floyd, and William Bell will also perform.
Justin Timberlake, the Alabama Shakes, harmonica virtuoso Charlie Musselwhite, Ben Harper, and Queen Latifah are also on the bill. The only performer that really makes me scratch my head, however, is Cyndi Lauper. (Yes, I know she released a star-studded blues album in 2010. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that the woman who sang “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” is trying to remake herself as a blues shouter.)
Booker T. Jones of Booker T. and the MGs will be tonight’s bandleader. It will stream starting at 6:55 p.m. EST on the White House’s website, and will air on PBS stations nationwide April 16 at 8 p.m.
Past shows have paid tribute to Motown, blues, country, Latino music, Broadway showtunes, and music from the Civil Rights movement. During last year’s blues concert, President Obama even took a turn at the mic during the all-star jam on “Sweet Home Chicago.” But for me, the funniest moment from that show came during Gary Clark Jr.’s smoldering performance of “Catfish Blues,” when the camera caught Obama lost in the music, with his eyes closed, head bobbing, and mouthing the lyrics. That moment of presidential music geekery can be seen at the 1:30 point in the following video.
Welcome back to Silver Screen Feds! This week, Andy Medici brings us the most dashing federal volcanologist to ever be awarded a GS grade: Pierce Brosnan in “Dante’s Peak.” And Stephen Losey explains why our worst fed of the week IS AN EFF … BEE … EYE … AGENT!
BEST FEDS: Harry Dalton, U.S. Geological Survey, “Dante’s Peak” (Andy Medici)
Deadly volcano? Check. Acid water, poisonous ash clouds and earthquakes? Check.
One federal employee willing to risk it all to save the lives of others? You know it.
In the 1997 film “Dante’s Peak,” Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) is a highly experienced and knowledgeable volcanologist at the U.S. Geological Survey who just happens to be the one person you would ever want with you in case your town’s long dormant volcano suddenly erupts into a firestorm of ash and deadly lava. The small town of Dante’s Peak — nestled ominously under a volcano of the same name — has just been named the second most livable city in America. But right away there are warning signs of volcanic activity and James Bond — I mean Harry Dalton — is dispatched to see what is going on.
The now-three year pay freeze has squeezed federal employees in many ways, and student loans are just one of the many burdens thousands of feds face. One federal employee, Jessica Stroop, is hoping to draw the White House’s attention to this issue with a We the People online petition.
The petition, which was launched April 2, calls for the government to reduce the balance of feds’ federal student loans by 2.2 percent for each year federal pay scales have been frozen, and for any future years of frozen pay. Stroop settled on 2.2 because it’s the average of the last two pay raises in 2009 and 2010.
It only has 10 signatures so far — well short of the 100,000 needed for it to garner a response from the White House. But Stroop hopes concerned federal employees will spread the word between now and the deadline of May 3.
The House Budget Committee’s report on Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal 2014 budget fills in a few more details on how it would affect federal employees. The budget, which the House passed March 21, would get rid of the Federal Employees Retirement System supplemental payment beginning in January 2014. That supplement is paid to FERS employees who retire before age 62, to replace the Social Security payment for which they are not yet eligible.
The bill also would eliminate student loan repayments for federal employees. And its 10 percent federal workforce cut would be achieved by allowing agencies to only hire one new employee for every three who leave.
Ryan’s budget also takes a page from the Simpson-Bowles commission and increases the amount federal employees contribute to their pensions. The House Budget Committee said the retirement benefit cuts could save $132 billion over a decade.
The Ryan budget is sure to run aground in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But some of these proposals could be resurrected later this year, as part of budget negotiations.