Hurricane Sandy is nowhere near done pummeling the D.C. area tonight, but FedLine can’t help noticing how the storm has already showered attention on the federal government’s role in anticipating and responding to disasters.
Last Friday, for example, The New York Times ran a front-page article on how delays in development of the next generation of weather satellites could jeopardize future forecasting. That risk would not have come as news to Federal Times readers, but the mainstream media had previously paid little attention to the issue.
Since then, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has had to fend off questions over whether he wants to cut funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And at least one network newscast this evening carried a feature story on the Coast Guard’s rescue earlier in the day of 14 crew members from a replica of the H.M.S. Bounty that foundered off the coast of North Carolina.
This is not to say that Washington does everything well (as the Times story points out, mismanagement has been one factor in throwing the weather satellite program off track), or that it’s unreasonable to ask whether some missions can be carried out differently or more efficiently. But whether you think the federal government’s size is too big, too small or just right, there is no denying that we currently expect it to play a very large role in situations like this. And if it doesn’t take that responsibility, it is reasonable to ask: Who will?
Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen was hard at work judging the first annual Commandant’s Chili Cookoff on Dec. 10. It was all for a deliciously good cause: raising funds for the National Capital Area Combined Federal Campaign, according to Allen’s blog. And from his comments there, it sounds like it was tough:
However, as much as I tried, I couldn’t match the intensity of Command Master Chief [Petty Officer Steven] Cantrell who obviously has grasp of the intricacies of fine chili.
Ultimately, Allen chose U.S. Army Col. Kevin Hawkins’ steaming batch of Airborne Ranger Chili as the “Commandant’s Choice.” Hawkins’ chili also collected the titles of Best Overall (picked by the judges) and People Choice (picked by employees), according to Allen’s spokespeople. The event raised $550.
A group of Republican and Democratic senators trimmed nearly $100 billion from the economic stimulus package over the last few days. Most economists say the cuts are a bad idea, because the smaller the stimulus bill, the less stimulative its effect on the economy. (Think of driving up an icy hill: If you’re not going fast enough, you slide back down.)
Federal managers might not like the cuts, either: The revised Senate stimulus plan eliminates billions of dollars that were allocated for federal agencies.
One of the biggest cuts will hurt the General Services Administration. The House stimulus bill gives GSA almost $7 billion to make federal buildings more energy-efficient. The Senate version cuts that in half â€” to $3.5 billion.
Other items cut from the Senate plan:
- $122 million for the Coast Guard’s new polar icebreakers;
- $200 million for new screening equipment for the Transportation Security Administration;
- $75 million from the Smithsonian, which the institution would have used for capital improvements (the House bill included $150 million);
- $200 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program;
- $200 million for the National Science Foundation;
- $1 billion for Head Start.