The Veterans Affairs Department today delivered to Congress dozens of DVDs documenting its controversial 2011 human resources conferences (now being investigated by the agency’s Office of Inspector General for possible wasteful spending).
The vast majority of them are typical HR conference fare: addresses by Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and VA Chief Human Capital Officer John Sepulveda, and discussions about recruitment challenges, labor-management relations and disability programs. (Which supports the IG’s conclusion that the conference was held for legitimate reasons, despite its concerns about hundreds of thousands of dollars in alleged wasteful spending on promotional items and scouting trips, and possible illegal or improper gifts to conference organizers.)
But the DVDs also included a video, shown the last day of the July conference, that collected some of its sillier moments. That clip shows VA employees singing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” at the conference’s karaoke night and dancing, and has a short clip of the in-person appearance of the actor who portrayed Gen. George Patton in the highly-criticized $52,000 video.
What do you think — harmless shenanigans no different from any other conference? Or an example of government waste? Watch the video and sound off below.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s office tells me that they’re hoping to attach a proposal to cut out next year’s federal pay raise to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, possibly today. Cantor, R-Va., plans to use the so-called “motion to recommit” — a House rule which gives the minority party one last chance to amend a bill — to force a vote on the issue.
If a pay freeze is attached to something as big and crucial as the Defense authorization bill, that could make it tough to extricate. There’s a lot that could happen – it could get stripped out in a conference committee if the Senate’s version doesn’t contain a similar provision, for example. But if the 2011 NDAA arrives on President Obama’s desk with the pay freeze included, would he go so far as to veto the entire bill over that issue? It’s hard to say, but given the fact that Obama’s already taking serious political fire over the size of the deficit, he may not want this fight.
The House GOP’s YouCut program this week seeks to put next year’s proposed 1.4 percent civilian raise on the chopping block. And so far, it’s the top choice to be cut — House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said today that 40 percent of the nearly 218,000 votes cast so far this week were in favor of eliminating the 2011 raise. (People must really want to keep those mohair subsidies.)
YouCut combines the democratic ideals of American Idol with the excitement of a Heritage Foundation seminar. Each week, Republicans propose five programs to be cut, and then let people vote online or via text message on which one they want to slash. The GOP then tries to force a vote on the cuts on the House floor, but lawmakers last week voted 240 to 177 to keep the first YouCut “winner,” the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program’s $2.5 billion emergency fund.
Cantor said the proposal to cut the 2011 raise could be brought to the House floor this week. Eliminating pay raises would save $2 billion next year and, if it is continued, $30 billion over the next decade, he said. ”This vote won’t be easy for everyone, but it is exactly the kind of choice we must begin to make to get us off the path towards financial ruin,” he said.
The proposal would not affect the military’s pay raise. The Obama adminstration wants to give service members a 1.4 percent raise, but some lawmakers want to bump it up to 1.9 percent.
This is sure to increase the political temperature surrounding federal raises, and may make it difficult for lawmakers to support pay parity, at the very least. What do you think about YouCut taking aim at federal salaries?
Video of Cantor after the jump:
With the kickoff of the holiday shopping season this weekend, Iâ€™ve been hearing a lot about how we all need to spend, spend, spend to keep the economy afloat.
It appears the government has taken that message to heart.
Some early procurement figures reported by the Project on Government Oversight today show the government spent more than $510 billion onÂ procurements in fiscal 2008. That number is likely to grow as agencies are still reporting their 2008 spending.
The final 2007 spending number was between $440 billion to $465 billion, depending on which government procurement information website you choose: the Federal Procurement Data System or USASpending.gov. Read the rest of this entry »