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Federal Employees News Digest : Oct 14, 2013
October 14, 2013 Vol. 63, No. 13 3 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com funds all federal agencies and depart- ments, such as the one passed by the Senate on September 27," O'Neil said. "Likely linked to contaminated poultry, this current outbreak demonstrates that food safety is broader than just the FDA and federal agencies like the CDC and USDA play a vital role." Environmental protection Environmental protection is another area where the shutdown is not only disrupting the lives of federal employ- ees, but also risking potential trouble. As of press time, the vast majority of the Environmental Protection Agency's more than 16,000 employees were also out on furlough. "When you look at things like water--- the Clean Water Act---and other areas of environmental protection, it has to do with a federal-state partnership to protect our water," Michael Kelly, com- munications director of Clean Water Action, told FEND. "Right now the states rely on the federal government to share in the implementation and enforcement of these regulations, with the EPA providing the money and the science that allow the states to go for- ward to do the inspections and enforce- ment actions. Without that money and those people there, if something [bad] were to happen, then those states are in a bind. "That is a big concern---the states rely so much on the federal government for the money, the science, the rules and guidance to enforce the laws," Kelly said. "And right now those folks are not working, so that protection is not there." Kelly pointed out that not only is day- to-day enforcement of crucial environ- mental enforcement work disrupted, but all major long-term work on the environment---much of it long over- due---is also suspended or delayed. "There are a couple of [other] areas where this is causing trouble," Kelly continued from page 1 Don’t miss our discussion of weekly news topics. Discuss these stories and more with your fellow federal workers at www.FederalSoup.com. continued on page 4 told FEND. "All of the rules that EPA is proposing or implementing---including important protections from power plant water pollution, and closing the gaps in the Clean Water Act---small stream pro- tections---and the ones on air emissions and climate protection---these are all on hold right now." "There are people on staff who can mobilize to deal with some situations--- like the floods in Colorado right now, for instance." Kelly said. "There is [approximately] 5 percent of the staff available. But there is a very serious concern if this drags on." National security When the shutdown began Oct. 1, like most other agencies the Defense Department and the intelligence agen- cies immediately began to furlough civilian employees. In the days that fol- lowed, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that most personnel would be placed back on duty. Intelligence agencies are reported to have called back employees in many cases, while essential or "non-exempted" compo- nents of the Department of Homeland Security---for example, Customs and Border Protection---remain on the job. But for now, even persons in these key security positions are not receiving paychecks. "The shutdown is affecting nation- al security on many different levels," Michael Breen, director of the Truman Project and of the Center for National Policy, an independent and non-profit think tank in Washington, told FEND. "It's hard to be a world leader when you can't even keep the lights on. There's a reputational cost to all this---hard to measure, but very real." Breen said another problem for secu- rity is the uncertainty it causes---uncer- tainty affecting decisions and important security work---from allies watching and waiting on the United States to return to normal functioning, to the individual customs inspector or intel- ligence analyst, to the armed federal agent or soldier. "One of the things we're seeing with this shutdown is that, in some ways, it's a dangerous, uncontrolled experi- ment," Breen said. "Especially as this goes on longer and longer. Leaders like Secretary Hagel are going to face harder OPM shrinks claims backlog The Office of Personnel Management made a big dent in outstanding retirement claims in September, cutting the number of claims in its inventory to less than half of where it stood one year ago. At the end of the month, OPM counted 17,719 retirement claims in its inventory, compared to 41,176 at the end of September 2012. The agency released the numbers in its monthly claims processing progress report. Backlogged claims for the month stood at more than 4,500 below the agency's earlier fore- cast---OPM had expected to hold 22,242 claims in its inventory at the end of September. Progress in the month was due to two factors. First, OPM ran ahead of projections for actual claims processed, processing 10,831 claims in the month, compared to the 9,500 it had pro- jected. Second, OPM took in a lower-than-expected number of new claims filed in the month, with 5,800 new claims received in September---far fewer than the 8,400 it had forecast. See the progress report at: www.opm.gov/about-us/budget-performance/strategic-plans/ retirement-processing-status.pdf.
Oct 7, 2013
Oct 21, 2013