Much has been written about the current partial government shutdown as it approaches its third week, and rightfully so. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees across the country remain unable to perform their constitutionally-mandated missions until the shuttered agencies and departments are properly funded by Congress and signed into law by the President. Millions of dollars in production are lost and the services Americans count on are simply not performed. As the shutdown continues –without end in sight – another devastating policy towards feds was enforced over the holidays. On the evening of Friday, December 28, 2018, President Trump issued an executive order calling for a freeze of federal employees’ pay in fiscal year 2019.
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As an organization that represents managers, supervisors, and executives in the federal government, including at the Internal Revenue Service, it was difficult, but necessary, to take a close look at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the IRS released last week. GAO was asked to “review IRS’s enterprise-wide strategic workforce planning efforts,” and its finding of serious risks to IRS’s mission should not come as a surprise.
On September 25, 2019, FMA attended the Kalaris Intelligence conference at Georgetown University. Sponsored by Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies, the theme revolved around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and national security. For federal managers and their employees, AI has the potential to become a useful tool for gathering data, sifting through that data, and accomplishing long term goals in an effective manner. FMA attended to learn more about this emerging technology, how it is currently being used, and how it can be used in the future.
As you have no doubt read at FEDManager.com, it has been a busy time at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in recent months. OPM has been led by Acting Director Margaret Weichert – who also serves as the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget – since October 2018. President Trump nominated Dale Cabaniss as director of OPM in March 2019, and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee favorably reported out her nomination in May. The full Senate has not yet acted on her nomination. FMA and our colleagues within the Government Managers Coalition offered support for her confirmation, noting the agency has only had a Senate-confirmed director for eight months out of the last four years.
While much of the news has rightly been dominated by the partial government shutdown and the 2019 pay freeze, the 116th Congress is slowly beginning to turn the gears and get underway. New legislation is being introduced and reintroduced from earlier sessions of Congress. Among the bills that has been reintroduced is the TRICARE Reserve Select Improvement Act (H.R. 613 / S. 164), introduced by Representative Trent Kelly (R-MS) and Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), respectively. This legislation, referred to the House and Senate Committees on Armed Services, would address an issue the Federal Managers Association (FMA) has been working on for several years.
We all saw it coming; it took no one by surprise. In fact, it was a mere formality when it did happen, but at the end of August, when the administration formally called for a pay freeze for all civilian federal employees for Fiscal Year 2019, it was disappointing nonetheless. The formal rationale for the pay freeze was due to “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare,” from an administration that continues to boast unprecedented economic gains. And it came despite the federal workforce already contributing more than $182 billion towards deficit reduction since 2011 through a three-year pay freeze, reduced pay increases, unpaid furlough days, and two increases in retirement contributions for new hires, without any additional benefits.
Score another legislative victory for the Federal Managers Association (FMA)! In last month’s ‘Hear it from FMA’ we touted the successful repeal of Department of Defense policy that reduced long-term TDY per diems. And this past Wednesday, August 22, Congress finalized passage of Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Transition Improvement Act of 2017 (S. 899), which will provide disabled veteran leave to qualified new hires of Title 38. This bipartisan bill, authored by Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) is headed to President Trump’s desk for his signature into law.
The Federal Managers Association (FMA) is an organization dedicated to representing the interests of managers in the federal government on Capitol Hill, and one of the primary reasons people join is for our legislative advocacy. Thanks in large part to that advocacy, the Department of Defense (DOD) will soon be prohibited from reducing the long-term temporary duty (TDY) per diems for all DOD civilian and uniformed military travelers based on duration of the assignment.
Last month, Americans went to the polls to cast their ballots in the midterm elections. As a non-partisan organization, the Federal Managers Association watched the election results closely, supporting both Democrats and Republicans with a track record of working to enhance the federal workforce. Much has already been said in the immediate days following the elections, but we wanted to provide a brief glimpse from FMA’s perspective.
The Senate has a lot of business to tend to when it returns from its State Work Period on September 9. Most notably, it will have barely three weeks before the end of the current fiscal year to pass appropriations to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) and prevent another government shutdown. Among the other important priorities on the Senate’s plate is finally confirming nominees for the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), the primary appeals board for federal employees.
In the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (P.L. 114-92), Congress gave the Department of Defense (DOD) authority to institute a two-year probationary period. FMA supported the change. Now there’s an effort currently underway to revert to a one-year probationary period via the FY2020 NDAA, and FMA is helping lead the charge for DOD to maintain its current policy.
On Thursday, May 2, Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Tom Cole (R-OK) introduced the Federal Retirement Fairness Act (H.R. 2478). The bill would allow Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) employees an opportunity to make catch-up retirement contributions for service performed in temporary positions. This has been one of FMA’s legislative priorities for several years.
After five weeks of recess, both chambers of Congress will return to Washington, D.C., on September 9th. Committee work will restart, speeches will be made on the floor, and representative work for the American people will begin again. For anyone, returning to work can be an arduous undertaking, but for this first session of the 116th Congress it is set to be particularly so. As of the writing of this article, the Senate has yet to pass any appropriations bills to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) and Congress has a little over three legislative weeks to avoid the second government shutdown of 2019.
In April, we wrote about the Federal Retirement Fairness Act (H.R. 5389), bipartisan legislation introduced by Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Walter Jones (R-NC). FMA endorsed the bill, which would allow a Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) employee to make a deposit, plus interest, and receive credit toward his or her annuity computation for non-deduction service performed on or after January 1, 1989.
As the 116th Congress churns into full gear, it will be bombarded with hordes of people seeking to meet with members of Congress and their office staffs. Corporations, associations, and others have already been making visits for several weeks, introducing themselves to the freshman members of Congress or solidifying previous relationships with more experienced lawmakers.
Late last week Congress agreed to a two-week extension of a Continuing Resolution preventing a partial government shutdown for the time being. The new CR expires on December 21.