Federal employees are the qualified individuals that serve the federal government. Their services play an important role in the running of the country as well as in the economy and they are compensated well for their efforts via retirement plans and allowances.
Survey Says: Federal Government Doesn’t Seek the Opinions of Federal Employees/by Admin(2)
Survey Says: Federal Government Doesn’t Seek the Opinions of Federal Employees
A new survey has revealed that federal government is failing at tapping the brainpower of federal employees. Employees feel that the employers in the private sector are more open to employee opinion and ideas. These findings bring up many interesting points that will hopefully be considered in the near future.
Government Leaders Don’t Seek Ideas From Federal Employees
A survey conducted by the Government Executive research intelligence division of the Government Business Council, in partnership with Eagle Hill Consulting, has revealed that the government leaders are not seeking suggestions from federal employees. About 72 percent of the respondents admitted that their agency never or rarely seeks their ideas regarding improvement while 71 percent said that the government is less open to adopting new ideas in comparison with the private sector. The survey findings were highlighted in a report titled “Building an Ideas Culture in Federal Government: Employees Are Key, But New Survey Shows Their Ideas Are Not Being Tapped.” About 332 federal employees were selected randomly as respondents.
Opinion on Results
Melissa Jezior, who serves as the Chief Executive Officer and President of Eagle Consulting LLC, has shared her opinion on the survey results by saying that these findings are troubling because the inability of the government to bring forward, consider, and implement ideas has the potential to have serious negative implications on the federal workforce, U.S. competitiveness, and taxpayer services.
She also said that given the deep cuts that are expected in many of the federal agency budgets and staffing levels, it has become more important than ever to collect recommendations from federal employees to find ways to innovate, sustain morale, and do more with fewer resources.
This research has also revealed that about 63 percent of federal workers who do not believe that their agency channels workforce in a creative manner, have said that they will very likely leave their job in the next year. Jezior also thinks that how an agency deals with employees’ ideas may directly link to employee issues like engagement and retention. It also directly impacts how well the organization fulfills its mission.
Need for an Ideas Culture
Jezior believes that agencies can make big strides by creating an ideas culture where agencies seek, embrace, act on and reward employee ideas actively to achieve its goals and innovate. She explained it by saying that if an agency wants an ideas culture to flourish, the leadership must become comfortable with taking risks as well as the possibility of failure. If there is championing from the top, the accountability for supporting ideas can then flow throughout the organization by including connected metrics in performance plans of individuals.
Nicholas McClusky who serves as GBC Director of Research and Strategic Insights stated that due to this information, federal leaders can implement tried and tested strategies in order to harness the ideas and brain power of federal employees.
The survey that states there is a need to collect information and ideas from federal employees also found out that about 48 percent of respondents believe that they are likely to leave their jobs in the next year. However, among the employees who stated that their agency seeks their ideas to improve processes or tools at least once every month, about 31 percent said that they were likely to leave in the next year.
Approximately 49 percent of federal employees stated that their agencies might be open to new ideas, but they were not sure about how to share the ideas. Around 24 percent said that they believed that their agency had no mechanism in place for submitting the ideas. It means that 72 percent of the respondents could see that their ideas would not progress beyond a casual conversation.
About three out of the top four apparent barriers to organizational innovation are related to leadership resistance to change, agency leadership, bureaucratic inertia, and lack of leadership.
How to Create an Ideas Culture at a Federal Agency
The survey that showed a lack of the agency’s attention to federal employees has also offered tips on how to create an ideas culture at a federal agency so that these employees can benefit from it. Some tips include office hours and marketing employee-led initiatives, feedback surveys and working groups to address idea culture gaps, use of innovation committees, innovation competitions, and collaborating & social networking tools for business as well as idea management software platforms. These tips would keep the ideas alive and organized for collaboration, input, and application which will lead to proper utilization of federal employee resources.
Fresh Attempt Initiated to Open FEHB Doors to the Public/by Admin(2)
Fresh Attempt Initiated to Open FEHB Doors to the Public
In a fresh attempt to Open FEHB Doors to the public, a letter was sent to the Senate working group by a House Republican, in which he not only propagated his ideas but, also pointed out the deficiencies of the Affordable Care Act. His suggestion would make it easier for the government because it won’t need to pay the premiums of health care of federal employees and federal retirees who consider it among significant retirement benefits.
Who Requested to Open FEHB Doors to the Public?
The proposal to Open FEHB Doors to the public was made by a leading House Republican Darrell Issa, R-Calif, who also served as a former chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on federal employment matters. He has even introduced a bill entitled HR-2400 in this regard. He is also urging the Senate to make certain considerations regarding the health insurance reform.
He is also urging the Senate to make certain considerations regarding the health insurance reform. Issa suggested that the Senate consider the idea of opening FEHB doors to the public when rewriting the controversial House-passed bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act while retaining a few specific provisions under a new formula.
Issa wrote the letter to the Senate working group about his idea to Open FEHB Doors to the public. He stated that a key problem with the Affordable Care Act is that there is a lack of choice in several of the state-based insurance “exchanges” that are created as per that law. He also said that offering access to these plans under FEHB to the general public will provide a backdrop to provide more choices in several markets that only offer one option at the moment on the state insurance exchanges.
If more plans were offered it would expand the access to top quality plan offerings, allow portability from job to job, and let people take advantage of the immense risk pool that has already been created by the federal workforce.
As per the bill, there would be no government contribution toward the premiums. Right now, the government pays around 70 percent of the total FEHB premium cost for federal employees and retirees. Although, the employers of enrollees who belong to the private sector could contribute as per their judgment.
What Else Can Happen If We Open FEHB Doors?
As per this proposed plan, the members of the public who decide to join the FEHB would put in the same risk pool as currently covered employees. It is pertinent to add here that there are eight million currently covered employees, retirees, and their family members. Unfortunately, the effect of this proposed plan on coverage terms and premiums in response to the resulting change in demographics is not known.
The potential for current FEHB population to become a minority force in their own program and the potential for increased premiums have been two major arguments made by the organizations that are representing federal employees and retirees who do not want FEHB doors opened.
It can be seen that the decision to Open FEHB Doors to the public is quite crucial, and will impact millions of federal employees and federal retirees who consider it among the much-needed retirement benefits. Lawmakers should tread carefully and think long and hard before they make a decision in this regard.
Firing Federal Employees Becomes Easy/by Admin(2)
Most federal employees seek to know the best date to retire so that they can do the financial planning well. But it seems that they will need to plan ahead as firing federal employees has become easy thanks to a newly approved legislation. The employees of the Veterans Affairs Department are the ones being more affected by this change. Democrats tried very hard to halt this bill which they think is unfairly targeting the rank-and-file employees.
Legislation that Makes Firing Federal Employees Easy
The legislation that makes firing federal employees easy was approved by a House committee. It will now hasten the disciplinary process going on at the Veterans Affairs Department. This legislation was pushed back by the Democrats, and they opined that this legislation is unfairly targeting all the rank-and-file employees.
Republicans vs. Democrats
This legislation is the latest effort made by Republicans to make firing federal employees easy and boost the accountability at the VA. The Republicans have tried to expedite the firings and suspensions at the department since an initial reform effort initiated in the year 2014 ran into legal trouble. Democrats, on the other hand, insisted that they were for getting rid of problem employees in VA, but they thought that the Republicans led plan would not address the root of the issue in a proper manner.
Hurting a Few Employees
The author of VA Accountability First Act and the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. started off the markup by addressing the expected criticisms. He stated that the measure was not an attack on the rights of the workers, but it was an effort to grant the request made by VA Secretary David Shulkin. Shulkin had sought to dismiss employees when he comes across very few bad employees.
Roe stated that he did not agree with the argument that the bill would impact recruiting and retention in a negative manner as bad employees usually hurt the morale of the rest of the workforce. While noting a common refrain from detractors of firing reform, Roe mentioned that the measure would not hurt a large number of veterans who work at the department.
Roe is a veteran himself, and he opined that veterans don’t agree to serve in any role because they put special employee protections ahead of a mission as the mission always comes first.
Eliminating the Grievance Process
The main sticking point of the legislation that makes firing federal employees easy was the elimination of the union grievance process that is available to all the represented employees as a way to appeal adverse personnel actions. Roe highlighted that the unions represent 76 percent of the VA workforce and his intention was to reform the process for more than just a quarter of employees of the department. Roe added that leaving the grievance process open would create a gigantic loophole for increased accountability. He also pointed out that the completion of the grievance process takes up to 350 days to complete.
Another ranking member of the committee, Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn, stated that VA must follow the laws that were put in place after collective bargaining agreements.
Democrats had proposed some amendments to reform the legislation that makes firing federal employees easy, but all those efforts failed. Walz has cautioned that the latest accountability legislation would fail to pass in the Senate. He even offered a compromise bill that was championed in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee last year and had got bipartisan support. Among the other amendments that failed, there was a plan from Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif. He proposed allowing the VA Secretary to suspend troublesome employees without pay while an investigation into alleged misconduct was done.
Scandals of the Past
Roe did not hesitate in pointing out that anyone who was standing against this bill that makes firing federal employees easy was supporting an antiquated system that was mainly responsible for the scandals that occurred in the past.
The Expedited Removal Authority
Roe’s bill would give expedited removal authority to the VA secretary which means that any employee fired by the Secretary would be out of the job and off the rolls of the department that day. Any employee who is facing removal or suspension of at least 14 days or a demotion would get a notice of 10 days, and the secretary would have five days to rebut any response an employee comes up with during that time. Those employees would maintain appeal rights to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the Merit Systems Protection Board.
Apart from making firing federal employees easier, this bill would also allow VA to reduce the pensions of employees if the employee is convicted of a felony that affected the job and it will also let VA recoup bonuses and relocation expenses in a few cases. Federal employees facing these kinds of penalties would also be entitled to an appeal so that they can retire when it is the best date to retire for them, and they can meet their financial planning goals rather than being chucked out unceremoniously.
Federal Retirement Tsunami Still a Myth?/by Sonny Dothard
People feared that the much-talked about federal retirement tsunami will hit this year as many of the federal employees who are eligible for retirement would opt for retiring and enjoying their Federal Annuities at home. It was also believed that feds who don’t want to work under Trump administration would opt to retire. Fortunately, none of this has happened as per OPM data. Just one noticeable thing has occurred, the retirement benefits backlog of OPM has increased again.
Who Says Federal Retirement Tsunami Didn’t Hit?
The data revealed by OPM clearly indicates that the much-talked about federal retirement tsunami has failed to hit this year as well. Only 15,317 feds opted for retirement in the first month of this year. January is usually the month when most federal employees file for a retirement so no one was shocked when this number increased 15,300. In fact, people were a bit disappointed as the number of feds opting for retirement has fallen by about a 100 as compared to January last year. Another point that must be mentioned here is that the numbers of January 2017 fell short by over 3,300 in January 2015.
Federal Retirement Backlog
As expected the increase in the number of retirees in January though not enough to be considered a federal retirement tsunami has increased the ever-growing backlog of OPM, which is currently more than 23,000 claims behind. It is at the highest point since February 2015. At that time, it had exceeded 24,000. February usually witnesses the second highest number of claims and this comparatively smaller surge results in producing the highest backlog of the year. At the moment, the backlog inventory is more than 10,000 claims higher than the steady state inventory of OPM. For those who are unaware, the steady state inventory is 13,000.
Though the federal retirement tsunami did not occur in January 2017, it seems the OPM was expecting it. The reason being the agency has succeeded in processing more than 7,000 retirement claims in January 2017. Unfortunately, the speedy processing of claims in January 2017 is not enough to enhance the agency’s position ahead of the January surge partly due to its dreary progress in the last months of 2016.
The percentage of retirement claims processed in 60 days or less has declined to 51 percent which is at an all time low since May 2014. It was in May 2014, that the agency started tracking this statistic. The monthly rate of claims processed in less than 60 days time fell to 39 percent. As per data, the average number of days it took to process a case rose to 53 which is a 16-month high. OPM succeeded in making progress in reducing the average number of days it took to process a case in over 60 days. That number fell to 89 and it’s the lowest since October 2015.
In the year 2016, 93, 713 federal employees opted for retirement. This figure is high but is nowhere close to being called a federal retirement tsunami. In 2014, the Government Accountability Office had predicted that around 600, 000 federal employees that constituted 31 percent of the federal workforce would be eligible to retire by September 2017.
A number of experts suggested that the presidential transition could lead to a federal retirement tsunami or at least a higher turnover in the federal workforce that would drain federal agencies of a majority of their workforce and institutional knowledge. The prediction of the retirement tsunami was made in the 1990s when first of the baby boomers began approaching the retirement age at the same time when the hiring of young federal workers slowed.
In the months leading up to the presidential election, many federal workers stated that they were uncertain about the retirement plans. In a survey, about 35 percent of the respondents even stated that the transition would be a key factor in deciding their retirement plans. At least 18 percent respondents admitted that they would make a decision regarding the retirement only when the result of the election was clear.
As per the latest data made available by the OPM, on September 2015, more than 45 percent of federal employees are more than 50 years of age. The same data states that just seven percent feds are younger than 30 years of age. The average age of a federal employee is 47.4 years. This data may be a sign that the federal retirement tsunami may hit in the future.
It is evident that the federal retirement tsunami hasn’t hit due to the recent presidential election results. It can be assumed that federal employees might value their annuities or retirement benefits but they still don’t want to leave their lucrative jobs just because the head of the oval office has changed.
Are Federal Employees Performing Exceptionally?/by Sonny Dothard
As per a recent GAO report, almost all the federal employees are excellent at the work they do. Experts believe that these sorts of reports might not be dependable as the rating system is not up to the mark. The GAO itself admitted that using a perfect performance management system has been a challenge for federal agencies. Even some employees have complained that the underperformers are not dealt with correctly.
GAO Report on Federal Employees
The recent report of GAO states that 99 percent of people working in the ranks of the federal government are really good at their jobs while about two-thirds exceed expectations or they do outstanding work. The top performance scores were also given to about 78 percent of high-level civil servants. The civil servants included those who are in GS grades 13 through 15. The scores they received varied from fully successful or outstanding.
Jeffrey Neal who now serves as a senior vice president for ICF International and was former personnel chief for the Department of Homeland Security believes that the rating processes are faulty and the federal employees are not performing so well. He believes that the rating processes fall victim to pressure to take the easy way out and they are highly subjective too. These problems ensure that almost every employee has a great rating.
He added that it is not credible that only 1 percent of federal employees are not doing a good job.
GAO has also admitted that the credible effective and modern fall victim to pressure to take the easy way out are a very old challenge for federal agencies. It has also suggested that the agencies are in need of a cultural shift that will ensure that a fully successful rating remains to be a high bar and the outstanding rating becomes a difficult level to achieve.
Federal Workers’ Stand
It is also pertinent to add here that the federal employees also believe that the performance management system may be not working right as the agencies are unable to deal with poor performance and the one who offers it. It hurts the morale and efficiency of the employees. These opinions were shared by the federal workers through annual surveys.
Several Lawmakers believe that it is almost impossible to fire the poor performing federal employees at the government agencies. It is also a fact that a few bills that are aimed at taking away some of their rights to appeal bad reviews have languished in Congress.
Agencies Relying on only a few Hiring Authorities for the Recruitment of Federal Employees/by Admin(2)
The federal agencies are not taking help of many hiring authorities available to it. They are hiring federal employees by making use of only a few authorities. The agencies are mostly using competitive examining authority. They are not even mapping the performance of any hiring authorities. All these factors were highlighted by GAO.
The report on Federal Employees Hiring Process
The report that states that federal agencies are depending on only a few hiring authorities to fill the positions by hiring federal employees was created by the Government Accountability Office. It pointed out that the agencies used only 20 out of 105 options available to them for hiring 90 percent of the workforce in 2014. The numbers of people hired at that time were 178,000.
The report also exposed the fact that the agencies used 85 different hiring codes to fill only 18,000 positions at that time. The major reason behind the highlighted trend is that the agencies are confused by too many options.
Less Data Usage
GAO also stated that the agencies and OPM are not using the data that needs to be used to measure which of the hiring authorities are working the best. This data also needs to be used to determine whether the codes are working as per the intentions of the makers or not.
What is Hiring Authority?
For people who have no idea what hiring authority is, it is an executive order, a law or a regulation that lets the agencies recruit a person into federal service. They also describe the eligibility of a person, the duration on which the position should stay open and what rules must be followed by agencies while confirming a new hire.
The Maximum Usage
Federal agencies used the competitive examining authority on most occasions. They post the vacancy to USAJobs.gov and then rank the applicants before using a category rating to find a new hire.
The Three Agencies
GAO spoke with three agencies on the matter. These are the Air Force Materiel Command, National Institutes of Health and the Energy Department.
Agencies need to collect and report the time-to-hire information as well as satisfaction surveys for all the positions they posted on the USAJobs website. OPM and the aforementioned 3 agencies admitted that they didn’t use this data to study how well all the hiring authorities are working.
The Lost Opportunities
GAO also mentioned that by not measuring and evaluating the required data, the agencies and OPM are missing the opportunities to enhance the hiring process for recruiting the federal employees.
Number of Federal Employees Surpasses Manufacturing Sector Employees/by Sonny Dothard
The numbers of federal employees have been steadily increasing since the last few decades. This interesting fact was revealed in the data shared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the good part of the last century, the number of manufacturing workers was higher than the number of federal employees, but these numbers started to decline since 1989. In the last year, the seasonally adjusted manufacturing employment has fallen drastically which contributes to making it seem that the federal employees are more in numbers.
How Many Federal Employees are there in the US Presently?
If the data shared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is to be believed, the federal employees, state employees, and the local government employees are about 22,213,000 in August 2016. In comparison, the numbers of manufacturing workers are just 12,281,000. Hence, the feds beat the manufacturing workers by 9,932,000.
The Changes Over the Decades
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has shared detailed data regarding employment of feds and manufacturing workers. It went back to 1939. The data shows that from 1939 to 1989, the number of manufacturing sector employees were more than government workers in the United States. But in August 1989, the seasonally adjusted employment numbers for the government beat the workers employed in the manufacturing sector.
In that historic month, the manufacturing employees were 17,964,000 while the government workers were 17,989,000. The difference is slight but it marked an important change in the employment data of the US.
It is an interesting fact that just a decade before the manufacturing sector employed fewer workers than the government, the number of manufacturing sector workers was at its peak. In 1979, this sector employed 19,553,000 workers.
The Recent Data
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has shared the most recent data also. As per that data, the employment of seasonally-adjusted manufacturing sector employees saw a decline of 37,000 as it reduced from 12,318,000 in August 2015 to 12,281,000 in August 2016.
Bifurcation of Government Employees
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has also shared the number of government employees hired by the local, state and federal governments. As per that data, about 2,790,000 were federal employees, 5,120,000 were the number of state government employees while 14,303,000 were the local government employees. After studying this data, it is clear that the government likes to employ more personnel at the local government level as compared to state and federal workers.
Federal Employees Spill the names of best Employee Engagement Agencies in the FEVS Survey/by Matt Pierce
The results of the FEVS survey conducted on federal employees by the OPM are out. It has mentioned which large and small agencies are at the top with regard to employee engagement. It also revealed which small agencies are at the top. The results also name the large and small agencies that have improved the most in keeping the employees engaged.
Topmost Large Agencies Named by Federal Employees
The topmost large agency in which got a score of 82 percent is the Federal Trade Commission. The next is NASA with 80 percent which is closely followed by Office of Management and Budget at 78 percent. Then comes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Nuclear Regulatory Commission that scored 77 percent and 74 percent respectively. The scores were offered as per the federal employees’ opinion.
Small Agencies Making it to the Top
As per the data released by OPM, 92 percent was the score at Marine Mammal Commission and it was 90 percent at the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency has succeeded in scoring 90 percent while the Federal Relations Labor Authority managed to get 84 percent score. Overseas Private Investment Corporation has also made it to the top 5 with 83 percent score.
The survey data also reveals that 7 big agencies have managed to improve their employee engagement scores in the last year. The score of Securities and Exchange Commission was boosted by 5 percent. The scores of Federal Trade Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Housing and Urban Development Department, National Archives and Records Administration and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission increased by 4 percent each. The Energy Department saw the maximum boost of 14 percent.
The small agencies which managed to increase their employee satisfaction score include the African Development Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts that gained an increase of 18 percent. The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board gained 14 percent while the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission gained 13 percent. The Office of Special Counsel and the International Boundary and Water Commission gained 12 percent each. The Postal Regulatory Commission ended up gaining 10 percent.
After seeing the aforementioned results based on the federal employees’ opinion prove that the small agencies are doing better improvement as compared to the larger ones as more small ones have managed to improve their percentage in double digits.
Many Federal Employees Disapprove of Trump/by Sonny Dothard
A new survey has revealed that many federal employees disapprove of Trump and his way of handling the transition process. Many of the feds also believe that his administration might not be too effective at managing the day to day operations while some think that their direct bosses, chosen by Trump might not be as good as needed. Some even thought that Trump’s own businesses may pose a conflict of interest against his duties as a President of the nation.
New Survey Says Many Federal Employees Disapprove of Trump
The survey that says many federal employees disapprove of Trump was carried out by Government Business Council/GovExec.com. It highlighted that nearly 6 in 10 federal employees think that Trump’s transition is not worthy of an approval. Just 27 percent of people approved of the same. About 62 percent of the feds accepted that they have voted for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton in the recent election while just 28 percent had voted for the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, stated the survey.
How the Survey that says Many Federal Employees Disapprove of Trump was Conducted?
The survey that says many federal employees disapprove of Trump was conducted on a random sample of Nextgov, Government Executive, Route Fifty and Defense One subscribers. The respondents of the survey were 745 federal employees who represented about 36 defense and federal agencies. About 395 of the respondents were at the GS/GM-13 or above the grade levels. The report of the survey was released on January 18, 2017. The poll had 4 percentage points margin of error (plus or minus).
Day to Day Operations
About half of the survey respondents also stated that the incoming Trump administration would only be a little effective or not at all effective at managing the day to day operations of government. About one third also stated that the new administration would be at least somewhat effective at managing the day to day operations. About 48 percent of the respondents also felt that Trump as a President will have a negative impact on their agency while about 20 percent stated that he will have a positive impact on their agency.
Though it is a fact that many federal employees disapprove of Trump, they also weren’t impressed with their upcoming bosses either. Only 35 percent of the respondents admitted that they think Trump’s direct appointee will lead their agency effectively while about 44 percent expressed just a little confidence.
Carrying Out the Missions
About 26 percent of the respondents accepted that they will not be able to carry out the respective missions of their agencies in the Trump administration while 38 percent said that they will do so.
The Conflict of Interest
About 68 percent of the respondents believe that the businesses of Trump will pose a conflict of interest with his duties as a president. Only 23 percent stated that there will be no conflict of interest. Around half of the respondents mentioned that Trump’s business experience will hamper his management of the federal government while 28 percent said that it would help him.
Leaving the Service
Though many of the federal employees disapprove of Trump, they love their jobs more as 65 percent of the respondents stated that they will not leave the job just because he is the new president of the country. Only 14 percent were considering leaving the jobs while 14 percent were not sure yet. About 7 percent of respondents didn’t know about it.
About 52 percent of the feds who considered leaving stated that they planned to retire earlier than they planned before while 37 percent mentioned that they would seek another job rather than working for the federal government.
Around 60 percent of the federal employees who took part in the survey said that the 2016 Presidential Elections have changed the public perception of the federal service negatively or very negatively. Approximately 32 percent said that there was no change while roughly 8 percent said that it changed positively or very positively.
The Bureaucratic Waste
Around 51 percent of the respondents admitted that their agency produces bureaucratic waste but they termed it as insignificant. Just 24 percent stated that their agency produces bureaucratic waste that could be cut down while 14 percent didn’t think that their agency produced any bureaucratic waste. Approximately 55 percent of the respondents also stated that Trump administration won’t be able to do much about the bureaucratic waste while 17 percent were confident in Trump’s ability to do away with the bureaucratic waste.
The survey that highlights that many federal employees disapprove of Trump included 91 percent of federal government civilians, 1 percent active duty military members, and 8 percent DoD civilians. Approximately 53 percent of the total respondents were females while 46 percent were male respondents.
Federal Employees May not have to Wait Long for Security Clearance in the Future/by Sonny Dothard
A recent report says that federal employees may not have to wait long for security clearance in the future. The OPM is working hard to ensure that a new system is put in place that makes security clearance a shorter process. Since the agency was busy in laying the groundwork for this change, the time it took to do current security clearances rose in 2016 as compared to 2015. It’s a prime example of the fact that things get worse before they get better.
Report Says Federal Employees May not have to Wait Long for Security Clearance in the Future
The report that says federal employees may not have to wait long for security clearance in the future was compiled by Performance.gov. It shows that the administration spent the whole year in putting many building blocks in place to implement efficient security clearance reforms as well as insider threat programs.
The Side Effect
A major side effect of the efforts made to ensure federal employees may not have to wait long for security clearance in the future was that the time is taken to do a security clearance was on a new high in the last quarter of 2016. It took 166 days to complete an initial investigation, 22 days for a periodic reinvestigation and 246 days to do an initial investigation that was at the top secret level. This data was also shared by Performance.gov.
In the year 2015, the federal employees waited 179 days for a top secret clearance and 95 days for the initial secret investigation.
The administration spent the year in standing up the new agency for leading the overhaul of security clearance, the National Background Investigations Bureau. In September, the Security Executive Agent and Suitability Agent issued a memo that explained how the new IT system would make most of the decision on the top level and secret cases.
All the main stakeholders of the Performance Accountability Council (PAC) approved the Enterprise Information Technology strategy in October. It will be the overall plan for the NBIB’s new IT systems and will remain there for at least next five years, said the report.
The Training Program
To ensure federal employees may not have to wait long for security clearance in the future, the PAC also wrote new training programs for background check adjudicators so that they can detect faults easily in the clearance application of the subject.
Federal Employees will get 2.1 Percent Pay Raise/by Sonny Dothard
As per the executive orders of President Obama, the federal employees will get 2.1 percent pay raise. The pay raise is highest since 2011. This raise won’t be applicable to the federal retirees. The military personnel would also get the same pay rise. In fact, the announcement of military pay raise has contributed to increasing the pay raise of civilian federal workers.
When Federal Employees will get 2.1 Percent Pay Raise?
The federal employees will get 2.1 percent pay raise from January 1, 2017. So, it can be called a New Year gift from the government. The changes were made official by president Obama recently by issuing an executive order.
Though the federal employees will get 2.1 percent pay raise, it wasn’t always the case. President Obama had earlier proposed a pay raise of 1.6 percent for the feds but changed his mind after Congress increased the amount of raise the military personnel will receive as a part of the vital Defense Authorization Act. Obama did not increase the pay rise percentage because it was increased for the military, it was also done by keeping the projected economic conditions in mind.
As per the change, the total combined cost increased by 1.0 percent across the board base pay and the varying locality payments are 2.1 percent of the basic payroll. These changes were announced earlier this month. It is pertinent to add here that the locality pay change that is supposed raise amounts for the Birmingham area would not come into effect until 2018.
Highest Pay Raise in a While
The 2.1 percent pay raise is highest since the year 2011. The feds received no raises for 2011, 2012 and 2013 as the recession was at its peak at that time. Feds got a 1 percent boost in 2014 and 2015.
The federal employees will get 2.1 percent pay raise but it is not applicable to the federal retirees. Those payments are usually determined by the cost of living adjustment for social security recipients based on the CPI (Consumer price index). It is supposed to be .3 percent starting in January 2017.
Pay Raise for Military
As the federal employees will get 2.1 percent pay raise, the military personnel will also get a 2.1 percent pay raise from January 1, 2017. This increase is .8 percent higher as compared to the 1.3 percent increase they received in the year 2016. It is highest since the year 2010. At that time, the military personnel got a pay raise of 3.4 percent.
New Mexico Joins the Efforts to Provide Retirement Benefits to Private Sector Workers/by Sonny Dothard
The lawmakers of New Mexico have initiated the process of understanding how they can provide steady retirement benefits to the private sector workers. Experts believe that low-wage workers in the state have no access to a retirement plan. When they have a plan they would have better savings. Some experts also think that only private sector employees do not only need an income in retirement, the general public needs it too so it must be a focus area.
The Brief Regarding Offering Retirement Benefits to Private Sector Workers
The members of the legislative committee of New Mexico were recently briefed on the efforts to boost automated access to retirement benefits plans by the national experts. The members of the committee are responsible for overseeing state investments and pension.
A harsh fact revealed by The AARP Public Policy Institute is that about 64 percent of private sector workers present in New Mexico do not have access to any sort of employer-sponsored retirement plan. It is the highest rate in America. As seven other states are moving to increase access to retirement benefits, it’s high time for New Mexico to do the same.
The Worst Hit
The Director of Consumer Affairs and Financial Security at AARP, Gerri Madrid-Davis recently informed the New Mexico lawmakers that the lower wage workers in the state are least likely to get access to any employer-sponsored savings plan. They don’t even have an access to tools like automatic retirement withdrawals from paychecks which can play a key role in boosting the retirement savings. She also said that workers who have an employer-sponsored retirement plan are 15 times more likely to save for retirement as compared to those who don’t have access to such plans.
Needs of the General Public
George Munoz who serves as the Chairman of the Investments and Pensions Oversight Committee believes that the legislators must cater to the retirement needs of not only employed professionals but the general public as well. If the general public has no source of retirement income, the federal social security system feels immense pressure.
Efforts of Other States
It is pertinent to mention here that five states such as Maryland and Illinois have made it mandatory for numerous small businesses to provide retirement benefits plans that have features like automatic enrollment and allow a person to opt-out anytime.
The Federal Employees Union Shows Support to Two More Politicians/by Sonny Dothard
Just a few days back we told you about how America’s Largest Federal employees’ Union had rendered its support to Maggie Hassan who was in the race for joining the Senate. Now the same union has offered its support to two more politicians as they seek to get re-elected. The union leaders have stated that they are offering the much-needed support to the politicians as they have worked for the civil workers in the past and will continue to do so in the future as well.
Federal Employees Union Endorses Alaska Politicians
The largest federal employees union, The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has openly offered support to Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Senator and Representative Don Young. These two are aiming for a re-election this fall. Murkowski is aiming to be a member of United States Senate again while Young wishes to join the House of Representatives once more.
The National President of AFGE, J. David Cox, Sr. commented on the decision to support these two politicians. He said that the union is proud to support them in their re-election bids in November. He added that working people of America are falling behind and this years’ election and it is the unions’ chance to turn things around. To do that, they would need Young and Murkowski in Congress so that they can keep fighting the good fight.
Cox also said that the said politicians have a combined experience of over 60 years and in these years, they have stood by the civil servants. Murkowski consistently supported the Department of Veterans while Young strongly defended the basic rights of the federal employees. Both of them would continue to serve their states in a good manner in the new term too.
Even the National Vice President of AFGE, Gerry Swanke openly supported the politicians. He said that the union was proud of endorsing two exceptional public servants for re-election as both of them have devoted their careers to the public service which empowers the federal employees. He added that these public servants have spent years in working to improve the lives of the working families of Alaska.
Swanke further stated that the leaders of AFGE have spent several years in developing strong relationships with the politicians. He said that when federal employees work well with the members of Congress, it will make Alaska better. It will also make America better.
Federal Employees’ Feel Frustrated by Poor Performing Applications/by Admin(2)
Many federal employees’ feel frustrated by poor performing applications, says a new survey. The responsiveness of the agencies in resolving the issues was considered to be slow. It also mentioned that the poor performing apps reduce the confidence in technology especially among the people in the public sector. The need for greater visibility to detect and solve issues before they harm the performance of the app was also highlighted.
Survey on why Federal Employees’ Feel Frustrated by Poor Performing Applications
The survey that says federal employees’ feel frustrated by poor performing applications was conducted by an application performance company, Riverbed Technology. It took opinions of about 335 federal employees. The respondents included defense and civilian employees who served upper and middle levels of seniority. The survey highlighted why federal employees’ feel frustrated by poor performing applications. It says that employees feel that the poor performing apps stop them from doing their work and hampers their productivity.
The survey also mentions that whenever an application fails to perform, it reduces the confidence of public sector employees in the information technology modernization efforts.
Another vital thing revealed in the survey is that about one-third of respondents admitted that it takes over 24 hours for the IT Managers of the agency to resolve application failures despite the fact that they have clear processes in place to report any and all problems.
Davis Johnson who serves as the Vice President of Riverbed Technology’s public sector recently stated that in the private sector, the consumer applications cannot be down. It should be same in the public sector. He added that the survey that says federal employees’ feel frustrated by poor performing applications also found that a lot of federal agencies do not have visibility tools required to solve the trouble areas before they lead to application performance issues.
Johnson said that better end-to-end application and network visibility is needed if the federal agencies don’t want the promise of federal digital transformation and IT modernization to seem like an illusion.
The survey mentioning federal employees’ feel frustrated by poor performing applications also pointed out that 98 percent of respondents think that latency issues negatively impact the productivity of agencies. About 25 percent said that they were frustrated when the application issues occurred multiple times a day and 50 percent of the respondents wanted better app responsiveness.
Federal Employees Health Benefits Open Season Ends Soon/by Admin(2)
The federal employees’ health benefits open season is on its last leg now. It will end in a few days. During this time, the federal employees get the opportunity to sign up for, change or withdraw from any benefits plan they are exploiting. Several new plans are initiated every year and old ones are dropped too. This year, feds who have children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can also avail some treatment.
Details on Federal Employees Health Benefits Open Season
The federal employees’ health benefits open season began on November 14, 2016, and will end on December 12, 2016. The dates were set by the OPM. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Open Season includes the Federal Flexible Spending Accounts Program and the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance program.
During the said time of federal employees’ health benefits open season, the feds have got an opportunity to review the 2017 benefits and rates. They can enroll in, withdraw from or change their health care coverage. They can also choose to participate in a tax-deferred Flexible Spending Account for healthcare and dependent care. The feds can also choose a supplemental vision and dental coverage.
A new change that was much talked about before and during the federal employees’ health benefits open season is that from 2017, the FEHB carrier plans would offer medically necessary and clinically appropriate treatment for kids who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Almost all the FEHB plans will have benefit and rate changes for 2017. Some plans are even dropping out of the program while others are entering it. OPM has regularly encouraged the feds to review the coverage during the Federal Employees Health Benefits Open Season so that they can decide which of the coverage would suit them for the next year.
Change in Policy
The enrolment for FSAFEDS will not automatically continue from the year on year because it has a new contractor as its administrator. The feds would need to enroll in it every year from now on. They can reenroll by using the official website of FSAFEDS.
Implementing Federal Employees Health Benefits Open Season
The changes made by the feds during the federal employees’ health benefits open season would be effective from January 1, 2017, for FSAFEDS and FEDVIP. The changes for FEHB coverage selection would be effective from January 8, 2017. People who need more information regarding Federal Employees Health Benefits Open Season can visit the OPM website.
New FLSA Rules not Applicable for Federal Employees/by Sonny Dothard
The new FLSA rules will not impact any of the federal employees in any way. These changes will just impact the local governments, the private sector workers, and the nonprofit sector employees. Two new rules have been introduced. First increases the salary basis threshold and the second ensures the periodic review of the specified threshold. The power to cover federal employees under these new rules resides with OPM but the agency has shown no inclination to use this power yet.
The details of the changes were released recently by the Department of Labor (DOL). It was also mentioned that these changes would have no impact on the federal employees as of now. Federal workers can only be covered only if the OPM makes some modifications in the FLSA regulations covering federal workers.
Currently, the employees belonging to the private sectors, the local government sectors, and the non-government sector are impacted by the changes. The employers in these sectors need to make changes to compensation policies as per the new rules.
The first change made in the rules is that there will be an increase in the salary basis minimum for coverage by the FLSA. It is currently $23,660 and it will increase to $47,476 per annum. The value of this increase is just a bit more than 100 percent.
The second change is that the revised threshold will further be reviewed at three years’ intervals. The review will be done only after studying the amount of wage growth achieved by the entire U.S. economy. The reviews would be done by DOL. The reviews would begin only after about 4 years as they will commence from the year 2020 only.
How to know if the Federal Employees are included in Future?
Though it is the fact that the new rules with regard to the salary based coverage which is under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will not impact the federal employees in any way but there is a possibility that they may include the federal workers in the future.
To know whether these rules cover federal workers or not, one needs to study the Part 551 of Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations. If the federal employees are included in the future, the agencies would need to revise its current operations as the other employers are doing right now.
Federal Employees Issued New Guidance on Accepting Gifts/by Admin(2)
The Office of Government Ethics has urged the federal employees to seek a higher standard while accepting any gifts from an outside source. It has also outlined when an employee may attend a conference and also highlights that attending a party is usually not considered ethical.
New Guidelines on Accepting Gifts for Federal Employees
After about 25 years the Office of Government Ethics has issued new guidelines regarding accepting gifts from outside sources by the federal employees. The general rule of thumb that the amount of the gift must not be more than $20 still applies but now the OGE wants the feds to decide whether the gifts offered that costs less than $20 are seeking to change the employee opinion or influence any decision or not. Every employee must ponder whether accepting a gift would put a question mark on their impartiality or integrity.
A few key factors were listed by the OGE that must be considered by a federal worker before accepting any kind of gift. It includes judging whether the gift has a high value in the market or whether the gift is timed in such a manner to influence a government action. Another factor is whether the donor has interests that would be affected by the performance and non-performance of the official duties of the employees. The worker must also consider whether the employee would give the donor disproportionate access by accepting the gift.
Some Do’s and Don’ts are listed in a 17-page final rule. Every fed must have a look at them as soon as possible.
OGE has made another vital change. As per a new rule, a federal employee must get a written permission before the employee accepts free attendance to any widely attended conference or event. The permission should be granted by the Ethics Officers of the agencies. The federal employees must not attend a party free of charge especially if they might be encouraged to discuss the agency matters or information without a proper approval.
If a federal worker is presenting any agency information or attending an agency sponsored event, it is allowed. It was also stated that while giving a speech at an industry conference, the federal employees can enjoy a meal if it is available to all the presenters and is arranged by the event sponsor or host. These new guidelines would be effective on January 1, 2017.
How Federal Employees can Save Two Thousand Dollars on Health Insurance/by Sonny Dothard
Federal employees often dread the open season and opt for continue with their existing plans. A guide can rescue such employees. This guide tells the readers on how they can save about two thousand dollars on health insurance. It is prepared by a non-profit so the ideas mentioned are not biased.
The Guide to Better Health Insurance Plans for Federal Employees
The guide that helps federal employees to reduce the cost of health insurance plans was prepared by a nonprofit Consumers’ Checkbook. The guide suggests that new consumer-driven and high deductible health plans ensure more savings by offering protection from high costs as compared to the traditional insurance plans. The guide was entitled as Consumers’ Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees.
While launching the guide, the nonprofit Consumers’ Checkbook stated that the popular plans might not be a smart choice for coverage during this year. By not investing in the most popular plans, a user can save about $2000 or even more than that. The quality of the service offered by the new plans would be at par with the traditional plans and the buyer would get better protection from disastrous health care costs.
The guide evaluates about 20 health plan options, local plans in precise geographical areas, 200 options of health maintenance organizations and plans that are restricted to varied employee categories. The users can use it as a tool that evaluates potential costs on the basis of the demographically alike health-care usage data. The guide has also the ability to rate plans as per several factors such as whether the plans are good for families or they are most suited to single people. It also helps retirees to know how much money they can save or lose which depend on whether they are a part of both, the plans available to the federal employees and Medicare Part B.
The guide that helps federal employees to save money on health insurance plans also revealed that carriers have claim dispute rates that are widely dissimilar. It has also established that the plan comparisons vary a lot depending on the retirement status, age and family size of a fed. This useful guide can be downloaded from www.GuideToHealthPlans.org. Several agencies have allowed all the employees to get it for free as well.
Federal Employees of DC area to get an off on Inauguration Day/by Admin(2)
OPM has just announced that the federal employees who are working in the DC area would get a leave on Inauguration day. The agency has also released the holiday list for the next 3 years. It believes that federal employees would also take a leave after the New Year and before the Veterans Day as they fall on a weekend this year.
Which Federal Employees are entitled to Inauguration Day Leaves?
OPM has recently released the federal holiday schedule for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. In the 2017 federal holiday schedule it was mentioned that the federal employees who work in the metro area of Washington, D.C. would be given a day off on the Inauguration Day. It must be noted that the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump would take place on January 20, 2017, which is a Friday. It is clear that the National Guard and the reserves will offer their support & services in the inauguration ceremony.
The Office of Personnel Management has made everything clear on its website. It mentioned that an employee who works in the Prince George’s or Montgomery Counties in Maryland, District of Columbia or the Fairfax or Arlington in Virginia and is regularly scheduled to perform any non-overtime work on the occasion of Inauguration Day would be entitled to a holiday. The employees in these regions who are not regularly scheduled to work on Inauguration Day won’t be eligible for any in-lieu-of holiday.
The Expected Holidays
OPM has also highlighted the fact that there would be some expected holidays in 2017. As January 1 is on a Sunday in 2017, the workers would most likely take an off on January 2. Similarly, the Veterans Day falls on a Saturday in 2017 which means that the employees would most likely get an off on November 10 of the same year.
The Past Record
For the people who are interesting in knowing the past holiday concessions, it is noted that the Inauguration Day in 2009 fell on the day after the holiday of Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday so the feds working in the Washington DC and nearby areas got to enjoy a four day weekend. In the year 2013 also, the second inauguration of President Obama occurred on a Monday which allowed some federal employees to enjoy three days of holidays in a row.
Federal Employees to get Better Awards for Good Performance/by Sonny Dothard
The Obama administration has offered an early holiday gift to almost all the federal employees. It has increased the amount the agencies can pay to a fed as an award for achieving something extraordinary. It was added that the agencies should use this change wisely. The details on personal performance awards that were given in 2014 were mentioned and the performance of feds in September this year was also highlighted via a memo by OPM and OMB.
OPM is Increasing the Amount of Money Federal Employees can get as Awards
The Obama administration has increased the amount of money the agencies can offer federal employees for individual performance or any special accomplishments. This announcement was done by a memo by OPM and OMB released a few days back. In the memo it was clearly mentioned that the agencies can pay employees below the senior level about 1.5 percent of their salaries. It was 1 percent before the memo was released and it was set in the year 2011.
The memo was released by Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel Management. It stated that the award programs are great tools that help agencies to reward the performance excellence of employees and strengthen a high-performing culture that boosts the organizational effectiveness. It also mentioned that it is the duty of the agencies to exercise the authority to offer recognition in a responsible manner.
OPM said that about 45 percent of employees who were below the senior level got an individual cash award averaging about $1000 in 2014. Around 3 percent got group-based performance awards that averaged ton $500 and 21 percent got cash awards of about $700 for individual special accomplishments.
In 2014, the total cash value of awards was over $1.2 billion which amounted to 0.8 percent of salary for those positions.
Other Vital Facts
It is pertinent to add here that OMB and OPM have increased the cap for awards to all the career employees and career Senior Executive Service members to 7.5 percent of salary from 5 percent. A ban on awards to political appointees is still in effect too.
Performance of Employees
An OPM report for September this year mentioned that about 48.8 percent of career executives were outstanding performers in 2015 while 41.4 were rated as exceeds fully successful. Around 9.4 were rated as fully successful while 0.3 percent was unacceptable or minimally successful. The average awards for those federal employees who were at the top three levels were around $8,400, $9,000 and $12,000.