Do you work with or know a federal employee who has made a particularly noteworthy contribution to the public good?
Then ’tis the season to put in a nomination for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) at servicetoamericamedals.org. The deadline is Jan. 17.
The medals, given out by the Partnership for Public Service, span eight categories, including career achievement; science and environment; and homeland security and law enforcement. Three main criteria will be used in choosing the winners: On-the-job innovation; commitment to public service and impact of their work on meeting the needs of the nation, the partnership said in a news release. Any career fed is eligible to be nominated.
Thirty finalists will be honored at a Capitol Hill awards ceremony during Public Service Recognition Week in the spring; recognition for the winners will come at a black-tie dinner next fall.
With snow already falling in the D.C. area this morning, the Office of Personnel Management isn’t taking any chances: Federal offices in the region are shuttered today. Emergency and telework-ready employees who have to work must follow agency policies, including written telework agreements. according to a notice posted on OPM’s website.
Up to six inches of traffic-snarling white stuff is expected. Here’s the rest of the notice:
“Non-emergency employees (including employees on pre-approved paid leave) will be granted excused absence (administrative leave) for the number of hours they were scheduled to work unless they are:
- required to telework,
- on official travel outside of the Washington, DC, area,
- on leave without pay, or
- on an alternative work schedule (AWS) day off.
Telework-Ready Employees who are scheduled to perform telework on the effective day of the announcement or who are required to perform telework on a day when Federal offices are closed must telework the entire workday or request leave, or a combination of both, in accordance with their agency’s policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements.
Emergency Employees are expected to report to their worksite unless otherwise directed by their agencies.”
Federal offices in the Washington, D.C.-area are opening up to two hours late Monday and employees have the option for unscheduled leave or telework, according to an advisory posted on OPM’s web site this morning. The announcement comes as a combination of rain and temperatures in the freezing range promise a difficult start-of-the-week commute for many in the region. Here is the remainder of the OPM notice:
“Non-Emergency Employees who report to the office will be granted excused absence (administrative leave) for up to 2 hours past their expected arrival time. In accordance with their agency’s policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements, non-emergency employees may notify their supervisors of their intent to use:
- earned annual leave, compensatory time off, credit hours, or sick leave, as appropriate;
- leave without pay;
- their flexible work schedule day off or rearrange their work hours under flexible work schedules; or
- unscheduled telework (if telework-ready).
(Employees who request unscheduled leave should be charged leave for the entire workday.)
Telework-Ready Employees who are regularly scheduled to perform telework or who notify their supervisor of their intention to perform unscheduled telework must be prepared to telework for the entire workday, or take unscheduled leave, or a combination of both, for the entire workday in accordance with their agency’s policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements.
Pre-approved Leave. Employees on pre-approved leave for the entire workday or employees who requested unscheduled leave for the entire workday should be charged leave for the entire day.
Emergency Employees are expected to report to their worksite on time unless otherwise directed by their agencies.”
As chilly precipitation keeps falling late Sunday in the Washington, D. C. region, the Office of Personnel Management has just put out the following Twitter announcement regarding Monday’s operating status for federal agencies: “We will be able to make the best decision in the early morning hours and are committed to announcing the status for the DC area by 4 a.m.”
Attention, Washington, D.C.-area feds: With the scene outside looking a lot more frightful than delightful Sunday afternoon, what better time to tear yourself away from the Redskins debacle and get back up to speed on dismissal and closure policies in case of bad weather or other emergencies. Last week, the Office of Personnel Management held a webinar (see above) on the subject and here’s a memo from OPM Director Katherine Archuleta: http://tinyurl.com/my7wjkf. For those who really want to go hard-core, this is the link to OPM’s updated 35-page manual on the subject: http://tinyurl.com/lslzns9.
It’s still too early to say what’s in store for tomorrow, but in a Tweet late Sunday evening, OPM officials said they will announce the operating status for D.C.-area offices by 4 a.m. Monday. As soon as we at FedLine hear something, we’ll let you know.
[This post has been updated as of 11:27 Sunday evening.]
Winter weather alert: Agencies in Washington, D.C. will be open Tuesday, but unscheduled leave or telework OK
Attention, Washington, D.C.-area feds: With wintry weather in the forecast, agencies will be open Tuesday, but you’ll have the option of unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework, according to the Office of Personnel Management. Most folks probably know this already, but here are the guidelines, pasted verbatim from the just-released OPM advisory.
“Non-emergency employees must notify their supervisor of their intent to use unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework (if telework-ready). In accordance with their agency’s policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements, non-emergency employees have the option to use:
1. Earned annual leave, compensatory time off, credit hours, or sick leave, as appropriate;
2. Leave without pay;
3. Their flexible work schedule day off or rearrange their work hours under flexible work schedules; or
4. Unscheduled telework (if telework-ready).
“Telework-ready employees who are regularly scheduled to perform telework or who notify their supervisor of their intention to perform unscheduled telework must be prepared to telework for the entire workday, or take unscheduled leave, or a combination of both, for the entire workday in accordance with their agency’s policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements.”
Official operating status updates are posted on OPM’s website at http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/snow-dismissal-procedures/current-status/.
Stay safe, everyone!
The Public Interest Declassification Board meets publicly tomorrow amid anticipation that the Obama administration may at last take up the panel’s recommendations for modernizing the national security classification system.
Those 14 recommendations are now almost a year old; the first was for the White House to name a steering committee to guide implementation of the other 13. “All indications are” that the administration is now going to appoint a committee along those lines, John Powers, a staff member for the declassification board, said in a phone interview today.
A spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council could not be reached for comment.
The board issued the recommendations last December in response to a 2009 charge from President Obama for a “more fundamental transformation” of the classification system, whose roots date back to World War Two.
Among its suggested changes, the advisory panel urged compressing the current three-tier system to two; requiring automatic declassification of records with short-lived sensitivity; and providing “safe harbor” to classifying officials who decide that something doesn’t warrant a secrecy stamp. Among the other participants in tomorrow’s meeting–to be held at the National Archives in Washington–will be Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who has introduced a bill incorporating some of the board’s ideas.
Since last year, the stresses on the status quo have grown starkly visible, largely because of the disclosures of classified information from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Those in turn have prompted equally unprecedented–albeit authorized–releases by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and other parts of the intelligence community, ostensibly in the interest of setting the record straight.
“The events of the last year have given even greater urgency to the topic of classification reform,” Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists, said in a separate interview. Whether the board’s recipe for change is the right one is a separate question, Aftergood said, but there’s little disagreement that both classification and declassification practices “are ripe for reconsideration.”
Muddled governance, ineffective change management and revolving door leadership were among the forces leading to last year’s demise of a costly and high-stakes Air Force logistics modernization program, according to newly released findings from an internal inquiry.
The Air Force canceled the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) last November after spending $1 billion for what one top manager termed “negligible” capability. But the acquisition review team offers a more upbeat take, concluding that much of the work done on the system “can be reused.”
The ECSS “wasn’t the failure people think it was,” the team adds. “It was the first step to truly understanding the enormous task the Air Force has ahead of itself.”
The undated executive summary was released this month by the Senate Armed Services Committee to Federal Times. After the cancellation, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and the top Republican at the time, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, demanded answers on what had gone wrong, what options the Air Force was considering to replace the ECSS and how the Defense Department would take into account the failure of the prime contractor, Virginia-based Computer Sciences Corp., to perform as required when awarding future contracts.
But while the Pentagon responded in March, neither Levin’s office nor DoD officials would release the answers (apart from a cover letter) because the Pentagon opted to stamp them “For Official Use Only.”
At Federal Times’ request earlier this year, Levin specifically asked the Pentagon to drop the FOUO marking so the committee could make the full response public; the Defense Department instead said that it was not releasable ”’due to its contents,’” Tara Andringa, a Levin spokeswoman, said in an email this month. Defense officials did permit release of the summary of the review team’s final report.
The report highlights four contributing causes and six root causes behind the program’s failure. One problem was getting “buy-in” from a user community fearful of how the ECSS would affect them personally. As time went on, the lack of effective change management got worse “because the lack of successful implementation signaled to the field that Expeditionary Combat Support System was not worth supporting,” the report says.
Management churn was routine: The project went through five program executive officers in six years and six program managers in eight years. In addition, the ECSS logistics transformation office was staffed with term appointees, not permanent employees, leading to additional turnover. And the overall governance structure was flawed as well: The absence of “coherent leadership guidance” on meshing intermingled methodologies drove “needless delay, frustration, uncertainty and labor burden on the program office.”
That problem, the report says, “is not yet resolved.”
A year later, it’s also unclear where the Air Force stands in finding a way forward.
The ECSS was to be a key piece of the Defense Department’s drive to make its books fully auditable by a legally required deadline of September 2017. Because of scheduling issues, key officials were not available for an interview in recent days.
In written answers to questions, Brig. Gen. Kathryn Johnson said the Air Force still expects to meet both the 2017 target, as well as a preliminary deadline to produce an audit-ready statement of budgetary resources by the end of next September. Since the ECSS was cancelled, she said, the service is using a “building block approach” to deploying “new, improved transformational technologies.”
[This post has been updated to include new information from the Air Force]
President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget request may be moribund on Capitol Hill, but one hot-button proposal buried deep within it appears to be very much alive: Taking a close look at the option of selling off the Tennessee Valley Authority, the government-owned electric utility.
The administration has launched a strategic review that’s delving into issues like “de-federalization,” the implications of a change in TVA ownership for economic development and how to deal with the agency’s assets, according to a rundown of “stakeholder outreach discussion items” provided to FedLine by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, a union representing about one-fifth of TVA’s some 12,500 employees.
The document, which IFPTE legislative director Matt Biggs said was drafted by the Office of Management and Budget, indicates that an interagency working group overseeing the review is made up of officials from the White House, Treasury Department and TVA. It is marked “pre-decisional and deliberative,” a tactic often used by agencies to shield records from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
As the administration evaluates “a broad range of options to address TVA’s capital financing constraints,” it is ”firmly committed to working with TVA’s stakeholders in an effort to better understand and address the interests and concerns of these groups regarding prospective TVA financial strategy alternatives,” the document says.
But in a Friday letter, IFPTE President Greg Junemann said the union got few concrete answers in a call with officials earlier this week. In the letter, addressed to OMB and TVA managers, he sought more information on a dozen points, including exactly how the strategic review will work and whether any recommendations will be run by Congress. “In our view, the belief that the TVA’s mission is no longer essential and is somehow linked [to] the fiscal sustainability of the overall budget is ill-advised,” Junemann said in the letter.
OMB spokesman Steve Posner and other agency officials could not be reached for comment late Friday afternoon.
The TVA, headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., is one of the best-known legacies of the New Deal, with staunch defenders even among the Republicans who dominate Southern congressional delegations. (Yes, FedLine gets the irony.) But it also faces some well-documented challenges. For the record, here’s what the White House said in its FY14 budget request:
“Since its creation in the 1930s
during the Great Depression, the federally owned
and operated Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
has been producing low-cost electricity and managing
natural resources for a large portion of the
Southeastern United States. TVA’s power service
territory includes most of Tennessee and parts of
Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North
Carolina, and Virginia, covering 80,000 square
miles and serving more than nine million people.
TVA is a self-financing government corporation,
funding operations through electricity sales and
bond financing. In order to meet its future capacity
needs, fulfill its environmental responsibilities,
and modernize its aging generation system,
TVA’s current capital investment plan includes
more than $25 billion of expenditures over the
next 10 years. However, TVA’s anticipated capital
needs are likely to quickly exceed the agency’s
$30 billion statutory cap on indebtedness. Reducing
or eliminating the federal government’s role
in programs such as TVA, which have achieved
their original objectives and no longer require
Federal participation, can help put the Nation
on a sustainable fiscal path. Given TVA’s debt
constraints and the impact to the Federal deficit
of its increasing capital expenditures, the
intends to undertake a strategic
review of options for addressing TVA’s financial
situation, including the possible divestiture of
TVA, in part or as a whole.”
The U.S. Postal Service will be announcing its final fiscal 2013 financial results next Friday, according to a Federal Register notice today, and as usual, the only suspense will lie in the exact amount of red ink. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that last year’s loss will be nowhere near 2012’s monster figure of $15.9 billion.
That was a fluke, caused in large part because the Postal Service’s books reflected the cost of two skipped payments for future retiree health benefits. (Congress had pushed the deadline for the 2011 payment into 2012.) For 2013, the final number is likely to be in the range of $6 billion.
But as FedLine has noted before, even modest improvements in the Postal Service’s financial performance lessen the political heat on Congress to move on the long-term restructuring legislation that USPS leaders desperately want. Those odds, never good to start with, continue to fade.
The House of Representatives, for example, has yet to take up a postal overhaul bill sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa,, R-Calif., almost four months after the measure came out of committee. This week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee had initially planned to take up a competing measure sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., according to a draft agenda obtained by FedLine, but then dropped it from consideration, apparently because of a lack of consensus.
As the year winds to a close, lawmakers’ attention is likely to be consumed by budget negotiations aimed at heading off another partial government shutdown early next year. And with congressional mid-term elections coming next year, the prospects for legislative action–absent a full-blown, can’t-pay-the-bills crisis–will be even slimmer.