Bonuses are back at the Energy Department.

The department got caught in a budget squeeze late last year when Congress failed to complete the annual spending bills funding the government on time. Worried that they would not be able to make ends meet and might even have to lay off employees, officials suspended bonuses normally paid at year's end until Congress wrapped up the fiscal 2007 budget.

Last week, President Bushsigned a budget bill that included funds for Energy, and Secretary Samuel W. Bodmansent a memo to the workforce saying "this new law has allowed us to lift the 'hold' on performance-based awards and discretionary pay adjustments."

In his announcement Bodman called the matter "a subject I know has been on the minds of many."

The secretary thanked employees for their patience "while we steered our way through this budget process."

The hold on bonuses caused some stir in the department. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 1,700 Energy employees, had filed two grievances over the matter. Yesterday, union president Colleen M. Kelleysaid she was pleased that the bonuses were back on track.

Energy was not the only agency concerned about funding this year. The Social Security Administration had cautioned Congress that it might have to send employees home without pay for up to 10 days if funding fell short. In the end, Congress cobbled together a big budget bill that averted temporary layoffs in government.

Bodman said Energy's funding "puts us in a solid position to achieve our goals this year," but the department will be operating more or less on the same footing as last year. The new budget provides $23.6 billion for the department, slightly more than the $23.5 billion in the 2006 budget.

Craig Stevens, the department's spokesman, said senior officials are reviewing programs and will make recommendations on their funding requirements to Bodman by mid-March. Even though Energy has not settled on program priorities for this year, Stevens said "there is enough money to support the bonuses."

He noted, "We did our best to be upfront and forthright with employees."

Rally TimeSeveral hundred union activists will gather in Washington next week to attend annual legislative conferences sponsored by the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union. AFGE's three-day conference begins on Sunday and features an address by former North Carolina senator John Edwards, a Democratic presidential candidate.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer(D-Md.) will address the NTEU conference on its opening day, Tuesday. The three-day conference will conclude with a luncheon address by Rep. Chris Van Hollen(D-Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Both unions will ask their members to make visits to senators and House members to discuss issues important to federal employees, union officials said.

Management ConferenceThe Federal Financial Management Conference, featuring Bush administration officials and a series of panel discussions, will be held in Washington on March 13.

Speakers include Clay Johnson III, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget; Linda Combs~, controller at OMB; Linda M. Springer, director of the Office of Personnel Management; and David M. Walker, head of the Government Accountability Office.

The conference is sponsored by the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program, the General Services Administration's Financial Systems Integration Office and the Graduate School, USDA. For details, go to

Talk Shows Margaret Baptiste, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, and the association's legislative aides, Dan Adcockand Jill Crissman, will be the guests on "FedTalk" at 11 a.m. today on and WFED radio (1050 AM).

Adm. Thad Allen, Coast Guard commandant, will be the guest on "The IBM Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. Saturday on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

Stephen Barr's e-mail address is