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At MSPB, the furlough cases keep coming

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Furlough-related appeals continue to pour into the Merit Systems Protection Board. As of this morning, the number of docketed appeals stood at 4,647, up about 50 percent  in a week. And that number doesn’t include another 4,587 cases that have been received but are not yet docketed—most of which are likely furlough-related as well, Clerk William Spencer said in an email.

The surge temporarily knocked out the board’s electronic “e-Appeal” service a few times this week. It has also prompted the board to post the following message on its homepage:

“Due to the unprecedented large volume of furlough appeals being received in the Board’s regional and field offices from employees of the military services and Department of Defense activities (DoD), there will be delays in the docketing and processing of all DoD furlough appeals. The Board will also be unable to respond quickly to additional inquiries. We ask therefore that parties to the DoD furlough appeals refrain from contacting the regional and field offices until we inform you that processing of your appeal has begun.”

“We regret any inconvenience to the parties caused by the overwhelming number of appeals, but assure you that every appeal will be adjudicated with great care once we are able to begin that process.”

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Labor groups seek support for furlough-related amendments

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Organized labor is urging a congressional committee to allow House members to vote on two amendments dealing with federal employee furlough policy when they take up a fiscal 2014 defense spending bill.

One of the amendments would “register a vote of no confidence” in the Defense Department’s use of furloughs; the other would stop furloughs of DoD employees paid through working capital funds, according to a letter this week from William Samuel, head of the AFL-CIO’s government affairs department.

The letter was addressed to leaders of the House Rules Committee, which acts as gatekeeper in deciding which amendments House members can consider when the defense bill comes up for floor debate. The committee was supposed to make that call yesterday, but the decision will now probably come next week. Also weighing in on behalf of the working capital fund amendment (offered by Reps. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Derek Kilmer, D-Wash.) is the National Federation of Federal Employees.


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How are you helping your agency cut costs?

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The sequester is here, and many federal employees are upset, frustrated and worried about the impact of severe budget cuts on their jobs and agencies.

Some employees are leading efforts to help their agencies cut costs and potentially lessen the impact of anticipated sharp budget cuts. It may mean using cheaper printing paper, parking in a less expensive garage or conducting more meetings via the Internet.

What are you or your colleagues doing to save money? Federal Times wants to hear from you. Please contact Nicole Johnson at njohnson@federaltimes.com or at 703-750.8145.

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As sequestration looms, OMB tells agencies to detail plans for furloughs, contract cuts

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With the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration set to begin Friday, the Office of Management and Budget posted new planning instructions to agencies this evening. The bottom line: It’s time to get specific.

Agencies should detail the number of employees who will be furloughed, for how long and when furlough notices will be issued, OMB Controller Danny Werfel wrote. Agencies should also spell out any major contracts they plan to cancel, re-scope or delay. Ditto for grants. Federal Times will have more on this subject tomorrow, but in the meantime, you can read Werfel’s memo here.

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Furlough fears: We want to hear from you

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Federal Times would like to hear from federal employees about the upcoming furloughs that are looking more and more likely. How will losing 20 percent of your take-home pay — as might happen to most Defense Department employees — hit you and your family? What are you hearing from your managers? What is the threat of sequestration and furloughs doing for your office’s morale and productivity?

E-mail Stephen Losey or Sean Reilly with your thoughts. If you’d like to stay anonymous, that’s fine.

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GOP congressman scoffs at White House sequestration predictions

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Last week, the Obama administration put out a “fact sheet” detailing the possible damage from sequestration, ranging from fewer FBI agents on the job to more homeless on the street.

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., isn’t buying it.

“This is Chicken Little time,” Price, vice-chairman of the House Budget Committee, said today in an interview following an appearance at the National Press Club. “I think that’s the kind of demagoguery that we see when people aren’t interested in true spending reductions. They always put the worst thing out there that affects people’s gut.”

Price, who shared the podium with the budget committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, expects sequestration–which would cost agencies $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts by the end of the fiscal year in September–to begin taking effect as scheduled in March. But he also expected Democrats to then “come to their senses” and help find a way out.

In a separate interview, Van Hollen stopped short of agreeing that sequestration will in fact happen, but said he found it “disheartening” that some House Republicans seem to want it to.  If sequestration does kick in, however, Van Hollen predicted a concerted effort to “reverse and replace it” with something else.

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Pentagon’s Carter pledges to give up 20 percent of his pay

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If sequestration goes into effect next month, many Defense Department employees are likely to be furloughed one day per week for the rest of the fiscal year — in effect, a 20 percent pay cut.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and other political appointees can’t be furloughed. But according to the Washington Times, Carter told lawmakers today that he is going to give back one-fifth of his salary if Defense civilian employees are furloughed. The Times called it “a show of solidarity.”

Federal employees are, of course, not happy about the prospect of mass furloughs, and many observers fear it could deal a devastating blow to morale. While Carter returning some of his pay won’t do anything to lessen the pressure on furloughed feds’ checkbooks, it may keep some of their anger from turning against their bosses.


Unions blast plan to delay sequester by cutting feds

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Federal employee unions on Wednesday swiftly denounced a Republican plan to delay the steep budget cuts known as sequestration by cutting the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and other GOP lawmakers proposed legislation that would put sequestration off by only allowing the federal government to hire one new employee for every three who leave. This would save about $85 billion, the same amount sequestration is supposed to cut for the rest of fiscal 2013.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, and the National Federation of Federal Employees lined up Wednesday afternoon to blast the idea. They all agreed that such cuts would be counterproductive and hamstring the government’s ability to perform crucial jobs like fight wildfires, protect food safety and guard the borders. And federal employees have already absorbed more than two years of frozen pay scales and increased pension contributions that contributed about $103 billion to deficit reduction.

AFGE National President J. David Cox called the bill “egregious legislation” that “would fatten defense contractor cronies while slashing federal jobs.” NTEU National President Colleen Kelley said cutting feds by 10 percent would be “foolhardy and would result in short staffing that could last for a decade.”

But NFFE National President William Dougan had the most colorful response:

Slashing the workforce to generate a year’s worth of savings is like cutting off your arm to lose weight for the prom.



Sequestration is delayed — what do you think?

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Gosh, wasn’t the last month of planning for and arguing over the sequestration budget cuts a lot of fun? Guess what — we get to do it all over again!

The fiscal cliff deal Congress passed New Year’s Day doesn’t do away with sequestration — it just delays it two months. Federal Times would like to hear your thoughts about the prospect of a delayed sequestration. How does this throw off your plans? What does the uncertainty mean for your projects? Are you angry that this mess has just been kicked down the road once again? Are you worried that another pay freeze will get mixed into the next round of negotiations? What’s the buzz around your office?

E-mail me at slosey@federaltimes.com if you’d like to talk. You can stay anonymous if you like.

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Deficit reduction, Onion-style

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Tired of hearing about one wonky proposal to avert sequestration after another? Trust us, you’re gonna want to read this one.

The Onion yesterday published an eight-point plan to avert the rapidly-approaching fiscal cliff, and its editors are nothing if not confident. The editorial begins by declaring: “Those who reject any part of this plan are not only ignorant, but are also guilty of actively trying to undermine the nation and its government.”

Their cuts would be brutal … and unique. The Onion proposes abolishing several agencies (such as the Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency), New Mexico, dams, and elk. Schools would only teach corn farming, nuclear weaponry and print journalism. All foreign aid would be cut, except to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. And fishing licenses would cost $140,000.

Since my wife is from Iowa, I was somewhat disturbed to see The Onion propose targeting Iowa and Minnesota teenagers as a way to eliminate 8 percent of the nation’s population. (They don’t explain how this would be accomplished, but I suspect it would involve some sort of Hunger Games.) But I don’t want to be accused of actively trying to undermine the United States, so I guess I have to support their whole plan.

But at least they’re not proposing more cuts to federal pay and benefits. So that’s something, at least.

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