wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost

The Post Most: Politics

Read In

Now Viewing: People from around the country looking at Post Politics section

See what's being read across the country ›

Social Surface: Politics

Federal Eye
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 03/15/2011

How do continuing resolutions impact agencies?

Eye Opener

A new three-week continuing resolution expected to pass the House and Senate this week might make things easier for Congress to negotiate a new budget deal, but would likely wreak havoc at federal agencies, if history is any guide.

Short-term spending resolutions block agencies from filling vacant positions and hiring new staff, providing full levels of service and make it impossible for agency officials to do any long-term planning, according to government watchdogs. The temporary budget deals mean many agencies must sign multiple short-term deals with contractors, requiring reams of extra paper work and cost estimates.

Lawmakers eager to cut federal spending may want to hurry their budget negotiations along, according to a 2009 Government Accountability Office study that probed the impact of CRs on operations at six agencies.

The budget impasses cost the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) $1 million in lost productivity and more than $140,000 in extra work for the agency’s contracting office, GAO said. The FBI estimated it spent more than 600 extra hours holding planning meetings and monitoring agency resources during CRs.

The Administration of Children and Families (ACF) devoted at least 80 more hours to short-term budget planning and performing related tasks. ACF officials also had to issue block grant awards multiple times over the course of temporary spending measures, leading to 10 extra days of work preparing and verifying the grants.

Temporary spending measures contributed to the already-cumbersome process of hiring new federal employees. At the FBI, officials said they didn’t fill vacancies because temporary funding ratess didn’t include funding for annual pay raises, hiring increases or more money to pay for new retirements.

Officials at the Food and Drug Administration and ACF also avoided bringing on new workers for fear that they’d end up with insufficient funding to support new staff.

“Overall, case study agency officials said that, absent a CR, they would have hired additional staff sooner for activities such as grant processing and oversight, food and drug inspections, intelligence analysis, prison security, claims processing for veterans’ benefits, or general administrative tasks, such as financial management and budget execution,” GAO said.

CRs also made it difficult to sign long-term contracts. The VHA delayed new maintenance projects on electrical and sewage systems at some hospitals because funding would run out before the project’s completion.It also had to solicit bids on contracts a second time in order to redo environmental, architectural and engineering analyses.

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) also delayed opening two prisons in 2007 — despite overcrowding at other facilities — in order to divert funding to other areas that needed the money, GAO said. In 2007, the BOP signed three separate short-term contract extensions with optometrists to provide care for inmates. Prisons also couldn’t make long-term food purchases, and couldn’t procure other medical, fuel and utility purchases — all leading to more work and greater administrative costs.

Bottom line: The sooner the budget negotiations are completed, the sooner agencies can get back to normal.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama and Vice President Biden are scheduled to have lunch today. Obama is also scheduled to meet with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is in Europe for talks on the Libya crisis. Marine Gen. John Allen to succeed Gen. David Petraeus in Afghanistan later this year.

CENSUS BUREAU:
Census finds more Hispanics than originally estimated: The 2010 Census counts of Hispanics were higher in 23 of the first 33 states whose population counts were released.

CIA:
Pakistani officials won’t rule on American’s diplomatic immunity: CIA contractor Raymond Davis is accused of murder in the deaths of two Pakistanis who he says were trying to rob him. Authorities fear negative reaction if he is released.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
U.S. military joins quake-relief effort: Marines stationed on Okinawa dispatched a high-speed military ferry to Japan that will deliver supplies, communications equipment, personnel and equipment for a refueling base.

DOD may see extra $1.5B in fuel costs: The Pentagon spends roughly $16 billion annually on fuel. About $11 billion is allocated from the base budget, while the remaining $5 billion is spent in accounts primarily for military operations in Afghanistan. .

EPA:
EPA delays fish-protection plan: But the reprieve for industry appears only temporary.

FDIC:
FDIC too slow to sue officers and directors at failed banks, critics say: The regulator has sued only a handful of officers and directors to recover some of that money, despite a pattern of risky behavior by executives at many failed banks described by the agency’s own watchdog in a recent analysis.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:
Lawmaker seeks 10 percent pay cut for Congress, White House: Lawmakers determine their own pay, but have voted not to raise member salaries since 2009.

Report outlines billions in possible savings by cutting pay, benefits: The government could save tens of billions of dollars during the next decade by trimming pay and benefits for civilian employees, the military and retirees, the Congressional Budget Office says in a new report on options for reducing the federal budget deficit.

U.S. POSTAL SERVICE:
Postal Service, largest union reach new 4 1/2 year deal: It would give pay raises to about 205,000 postal workers, but force them to pay more for health-care insurance.

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION:
SSA cancels overtime for most employees: The only exception is for overtime “directly related” to life, safety and preservation of property.

Follow The Federal Eye on Twitter | Submit your news tips here

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 03/15/2011

Categories:  Eye Opener, Government Shutdown

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company