Author Steve Watkins

Congratulations, Eileen!

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We offer a big congratulations and best wishes to our friend and former colleague Eileen Sullivan at the Associated Press who yesterday won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Many of you may  remember Eileen’s great work for Federal Times back in 2003-2005 when she covered our homeland security beat. She broke a number of stories for us, including stories in late 2004 and early 2005 about how the Homeland Security Department imposed — and then later rescinded — a highly controversial policy that required employees to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to gain access to unclassified information marked “for…

Phased retirements — Good idea?

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You may soon have an additional option to consider as you approach retirement age: retiring part-time and working part-time at your current federal job.  Courtesy Goodyear, Ariz. The Senate approved an amendment that would authorize the use of phased retirements for retirement-eligible feds. Under a phased retirement, a fed can work part-time — say, one, two, three or four days a week — and collect a partial retirement annuity for the time he or she is not working. And, throughout that time, the fed continues to earn partial retirement benefits. These proposed phased retirements, which President Obama proposed in his…

Challenging times

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I had the great pleasure Monday of hosting a public conversation with esteemed federal government expert Dr. Paul Light, NYU professor, former Brookings Institution fellow, author of numerous books, and Washington Post blogger. Our conversation was sponsored by the Coalition for Effective Change and took place at the offices of one of my favorite organizations, the Partnership For Public Service. The discussion was titled “Changes to the Civil Service: Hollow Government or Necessary Reforms?” and it posed the following questions: Is the federal workforce too large? Should Congress cut agency resources across-the-board? Does the civil service need to be reformed? How? Light, author of “The True Size of…

Why lawmakers won't likely approve Obama's govt reorganization plan

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Here is why President Obama’s plan to reorganize and streamline government doesn’t stand much of a chance in Congress: rice bowls. In this case: USTR. Just about every state in the Union has a deep vested interest in international trade and in the outcome of trade disputes. That’s why, as a legislator, it is about as plum as it gets if you sit on one of the committees that calls the shots at the obscure little agency across the street from the White House called the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). That little office sets and promotes U.S.…

Growth in health premiums slows dramatically

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The Office of Personnel Management today announced that health care premiums for federal employees and retirees will increase by 3.8 percent for non-postal employees, a sharp reduction from the 7.3 percent average increase that hit premiums last year. Enrollees with self-only coverage will pay $2.32 more on average per bi-weekly pay period. Those with family coverage will pay $6.18 more on average. And premiums for the most popular plan in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) — the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Standard Option — will actually drop slightly: Enrollees with self-only coverage will pay 81 cents less…

Contracting cuts are coming

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Jeff Zients, the government’s chief performance officer, and Dan Gordon, the top contracting policy official at the Office of Management and Budget, just announced they are directing agencies to cut their services contracting by 15 percent, from a total of $40 billion now to $34 billion by 2012, according to our reporter Sarah Chacko, who is at OMB now covering the event.  Stay tuned for more coverage . . . .

Yes, the Postal Service intends to cut 30,000 positions this year

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Apparently, there is much spin going on in the wake of our story on Wednesday that the Postal Service is cutting its workforce by 30,000 positions this year. The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe said he was told by postal officials that this is not correct. Let’s be clear: There was nothing incorrect about our coverage and I stand by it. Not only that, you can see for yourself exactly what was said. Federal Times reported this story directly from an editorial board meeting we held with Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe on March 9. Donahoe said his goal is to downsize…

Government's open (but don't dare celebrate)

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Warning: Killjoy alert! As you all know (because you’re probably reading this from your office instead of your home), Congress last week struck a deal to keep government operating for another two weeks. So here we are today, the first Monday into the new CR, and federal agencies are operating, citizens are getting their government services,  and feds are getting paid. What’s not to love about that? According to today’s excellent-but-depressing blog post by former Capitol Hill staffer and Wall Street consultant Peter Davis, plenty. Davis dissects the predicament we find ourselves in and concludes that the big-picture budget outlook…

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