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Federal Diary: A flurry of snow days?

4. Permit a combination of unscheduled leave or delayed arrivals.

5. Close the Washington area offices.

In January, President Obama, a longtime Chicago resident much more accustomed to the snow, joked about Washington schools closing because of ice. "We're going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town," he said at the time.

Now, Berry says Obama believes safety is the only thing that matters.

"The president's been very clear: Make the decision based on public safety, and on public safety alone," Berry said.

The Federal Eye, ably reported by my colleague Ed O'Keefe at, will post OPM's decisions whenever they are announced.

You can sign up for e-mail alerts from the Eye to ensure you get the latest information about closures and early dismissals.

Contractor use criticized

Even as the Obama administration develops an administration-wide effort to increase the federal employment of veterans, the agency responsible for their welfare is being criticized for giving their jobs to outside contractors.

The American Federation of Government Employees wants the Department of Veterans Affairs to place a moratorium on the use of contractors, who the union says now do the work veterans once did.

The use of outside contractors is widespread in government and organized labor does not object to all of the work they do. But according to a union press release, "the VA -- the agency that strives to be the model employer of veterans -- has contracted out more jobs held by veterans than most other agencies."

Before the Bush administration took office, almost all blue-collar VA jobs, in such areas as housekeeping, laundry, food services, and maintenance of hospitals and cemeteries, were held by vets, but now many of those have been farmed out to contractors, union officials said in a phone interview.

VA officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Last month, the government announced an intensified effort to increase the hiring of vets. Obama issued an executive order creating an interagency council and telling agencies to establish veterans employment plans. They are charged with developing programs to boost the hiring of vets.

An AFGE statement released this week said, "Any plan developed by the Council should address the systemic risk to federal civilian employment of veterans posed by the expanded use of for-profit contractors."

Staff writer Ed O'Keefe contributed to this column.

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