Holiday To-Do’s

Okay, we are coming up on the holidays and then we are facing the Congressional battle over the budget/debt/debt ceiling in January.  Let’s start building our To-Do list of goals.  Let’s face it, the holidays are simply paid furloughs, right!?

Re-read our posts and comments and put together your list of goals for the holidays, furloughs (if any), and 2014 in general.  Take these goals and break them into small sub-goals and then put due dates on them.  You can even break them into smaller steps if that helps you achieve your goal.

The timing is going to be difficult due to the unknown nature of the furloughs (both shutdown and budget-cutting).  However, there are a few ways to address this:  set up your goals as time-duration tasks or set hard dates on known time schedules (ie, holidays) and soft dates when furloughs may be available (ie, this January).  When we found out about the original proposal to give all government workers 22 furlough days, we set up our To-Do list based on soft dates which is why we are still working on some of them!  It’s all good, Jerry!!!

Furlough goal #12: Meditation

As we have discussed, we set up a list of goals and trying meditation was one of those goals. My husband gave it a shot and here’s his report.  How are you doing on your goals?  Let us know!!!

I’ve always wanted to try meditation.  I have been a big, big advocate of positive thinking and prayer so I thought I would see if meditation would help with positive visualization, finding my “inner self”, awareness, relaxation, and the list goes on.

I started by joining a class at the local community college (Grossmont Community College).  I enjoyed the discussions about meditation and the various methods/approaches (to include reiki).  However, I didn’t do well with the guided meditations.  I think I let my nuclear engineer mentality take over and I was trying to find a process or procedure to follow.  We went on ‘walks’ and ‘underwater’ meditations and I just couldn’t follow our instructor.  She would discuss “we are passing a giant sea clam and there’s a special object inside it – just for you” and I was still trying to get underwater!  My classmates found letters and photos in the sea clam and I never saw it.  I told them, “I feel like the guy that can’t see the wolf howling at the moon in the 3D picture!”

One classmate told me about headspace.com.  It’s a website (www.getsomeheadspace.com) where you can practice meditation at a much slower pace.  There are no expectations (ie, no sea clams) so there’s no disappointment.  I have really enjoyed it and found the meditation time very relaxing.  This is one goal that I will enjoy for the rest of my life!

 

Furlough Over (but for how long?)

Okay, so this shutdown furlough was short-lived and almost everyone is back at work.  That’s great news but, unfortunately, we still have to be concerned because Congress pretty much kicked the can down the road on the issues that caused the furlough.  We’ll be right back at it in January.  My husband calls it the “Save Our Holiday Act” — our elected officials don’t want to spend their holidays in DC trying to resolve their issues!

One very positive aspect of the furlough was the timing.  We were in the Dominican Republic celebrating our friends’ wedding so instead of using annual leave, my husband used administrative leave and saved his vacation time!  I’m thinking we need to plan something for January!!!

SHUTDOWN!!!

Day Two of the shutdown furlough. Time to dust off our 22 Furlough Days to-do list and make this another opportunity. My husband spent his first half-day pounding out to-do’s. But, he also took some time to relax – he says he’s a “freeloading furloughed employee or furloader!”

Now we have added furloader to our new vocabulary that includes sefrustration!

RIF – Reduction in Force or Really Improved Future!

RIFs are around the corner for us but let’s look at all aspects of RIFs.  Let’s see if we can turn Reduction in Force into Really Improved Future!  Here are some great links to learn more about RIFs:

OPM’s website:  http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/workforce-restructuring/reductions-in-force/

Federal Soup’s website:  https://federalsoup.federaldaily.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=38489&title=employees-guide-to-reduction-in-force-rif

Federal Times blog:  http://blogs.federaltimes.com/federal-retirement/category/downsizing/reductions-in-force/

Share some of your insightful websites on RIFs and your ideas on how to “turn this frown upside down!”  I’m sorry — my husband always says that and I tell him I hate it and here I am using it!  ;)

The Doors Are Open!

George Lucas once said, “We are all living in cages with the door wide open!”

Let’s use the furloughs and the RIFs and Sefrustration as means to get us through the door and out of our cages!

We’ll start exploring RIFs in preparation for FY 14 but let’s stick our heads out the doors of our cages, too! Share what you are doing to escape the cage!

We had a great guest-post that furthers my desire to help us explore and experience. Are you feeling the lingering doldrums? What are you going to do about it?

The Lingering Effects of Furloughs…

We always welcome additional authors — whether it’s a new post or a comment.  It’s important to give everyone a platform to share ideas, help each other, and keep all of us up to date on Sefrustration news.  I am sharing the following post as an anonymous author.  I think it is important to provide that option to authors because some topics can be sensitive.  This is a very interesting perspective:

Darlene, I know you are trying to share positive ways to deal with a negative issue and I appreciate what you are doing.  Sometimes, I think, it is important to dwell on the negative aspects of a negative issue with the hopes that we can avoid the same mistakes (ie, furloughs) again.  I would appreciate it if you did not attach my name to this post — I don’t need to be the top guy on the RIF list!  I’m kidding but this is a discussion based on my workplace experiences and some people may not appreciate me sharing my thoughts.

What are the lasting impacts on the workforce of the furloughs?  I think that is a question that we need to explore before we consider furloughs again.  I think the furloughs have been very damaging to the psyche and spirit of our workforce.  What is everyone else seeing?  Is the money saved by doing 6 furlough days worth the personnel issues that remain today?

I have noticed, in my office, that the “spirit” of the worker bees has been dampened.  I feel it myself.  I have always put the War Fighter first when I am at work.  I have always put in extra time and volunteered for extra tasks in order to help my team out and to ensure the War Fighter is taken care of.  But, I don’t feel that “spirit” and “drive” anymore!  I see the same loss in my fellow workers, too.

Perhaps it was the way we did furloughs.  I felt the key concern of leadership was to “make sure they feel the impact” of demanding furloughs in the DoD.  But who is “they” in that concern?  For my job, “they” is the War Fighter that I have strived to serve day in and day out.  Do we really want to make the War Fighter “feel the impact” of political and bureaucratic decisions?  We were told that we could not work a single minute over our 8 hour day and we couldn’t work on weekends and we were warned repeatedly to not work on our furlough days.  Then, when the furloughs ended, everyone joked about how we could now work extra hours and work on the weekends again.  While we were joking at first, it is now understood that we have to go back to long hours and extra tasks — back to “normal.”  This was a signal to me and my fellow workers that our private time is not a concern of our supervisors and leadership.  When it comes time to punish politicians for putting us into furloughs, our off-time is protected and inviolate.  We were encouraged to log the impacts of working only 32 hours a week.  But when the furloughs are over, our off-time is open game for supervisors to plunder.  We are back to doing whatever it takes to avoid any impacts, even if that means 50  or 60 hour weeks.  I’m not sure if the War Fighters were a factor in either decision.

Perhaps it was the lack of flexibility in dealing with furloughs.  There wasn’t any relaxation of the ethics rules to support the workers that were facing a 20% cut in their paychecks.  Who wants to hire a worker for one day a week?  DoD contractors would love to have a DoD civil servant help them with marketing or proposals or training.  That’s unethical but is taking someone’s pay away and not letting them replace it ethical?  Additionally, there wasn’t any freedom in determining how to make the most out of the furlough days.  Some folks in my office were hoping to take furlough days in the middle of the week so they could attend their children’s classes and/or take classes themselves to improve their skills.  One lady wanted to lump her furlough days together to visit her daughter as she gave birth to her first grandchild.  They were told changes to the furlough Fridays schedule would require SES approval, even Secretary of the Army approval for some requests.  Really?  Do we need to get that level of approval to take annual leave?  No, so why not provide some flexibility in furlough scheduling?

Maybe it will take some time for people to forget how we were “used by the System” or how our customers, the War Fighters, were playing pieces in a political fray.  I don’t know.  I don’t know if we will ever see a return to the “Let’s roll!” attitude our office had before the furloughs.  Now it’s “Let’s see what’s next”!  Again, Darlene, I appreciate your blog providing us a forum to deal with the Sefrustration (I love that name!) issues and I hope my fellow DoD teammates use your blog to help heal the scars, address future grievances before they happen, and promote a return to the “Let’s roll!” workforce that has made the DoD an incredibly successful organization.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.  I hope it helps our readers deal with the lingering effects of furloughs in their workspaces!

 

 

The latest news on FY14 reductions…

Here’s the latest — might have to change the name of this blog to “22+ RIFs!”

Pentagon Weighs Firing Thousands Under 2014 Spending Cuts

By Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg News 

The Defense Department may have to fire at least 6,272 civilian employees if 
automatic cuts known as sequestration slice $52 billion from its fiscal 2014 
budget, according to a Pentagon planning document.

Additional budget analysis is "likely to produce further reductions" as the 
services focus on shrinking their contract labor forces, according to a Pentagon 
"execution plan" obtained by Bloomberg News. The job cuts, although less than 1 
percent of the non-uniformed workforce, would mark an escalation from the unpaid 
leave mandated under sequestration in the current fiscal year.

The services should expect a $475 billion budget after sequestration cuts for 
the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, almost 10 percent less than the pending 
$526.6 billion request, according to the document dated Aug. 1. Sequestration 
would result in 16 percent reductions in the Pentagon's procurement and research 
spending and 12 percent cuts in operations, maintenance and military 
construction.

For the most part, major weapons programs aren't being targeted for extensive 
reductions, according to the plan, which was a presentation by Pentagon budget 
and cost-assessment officials for generals and admirals who oversee force 
structure and resources for their respective services.

It offers more detail than previously disclosed about the potential impact of 
cuts on fiscal 2014 spending. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a July 10 letter 
to Congress, gave a broad picture of "abrupt, deep" cuts to the military.

The planning document is stamped "Draft/Pre-Decisional" and said no final 
decisions have been made.

'Starting immediately'

Jennifer Elzea, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon comptroller, said in an e-mailed 
statement that she "cannot provide comment on pre-decisional documents."

To accommodate this year's $37 billion in sequestration cuts, the Pentagon 
required 85 percent of its civilian workers to each take about six days of 
unpaid furloughs. "No service is planning fiscal 2014 furloughs," the plan said. 
Instead, the department is preparing for dismissals, known euphemistically as 
"reductions in force," or RIFs.

"Realistically, it is difficult to execute a RIF in fiscal 2014 without starting 
immediately," with some of the necessary paperwork submitted no later than Sept. 
15, it said.

The Army would lose more than 2,100 workers from a 263,900-person civilian 
workforce, and the Navy would cut as many as 2,672 of 214,000 people. 
Department-wide agencies would dismiss 1,500 people from a projected 
137,000-person force, with most coming from the Defense Contract Management 
Agency.

Falling morale

The Air Force "will require targeted" reductions to its planned 185,400-person 
civilian workforce, though the number hasn't yet been determined, according to 
the document. The Army would also release 1,000 contractors.

Firings, if they occur, will result in a "significant skill-set mismatch and 
degradation in morale," it said.

If sequestration continues into fiscal 2015, according to the plan, the Pentagon 
would need congressional help to increase "enhanced selective early retirement" 
and improve voluntary retirement incentives and selective early departure dates.

For fiscal 2014, the Pentagon also may need to ask Congress for "a massive 
reprogramming, possibly moving tens of billions among accounts," according to 
the planning document, which said it would be "very difficult to secure 
congressional approval."

Readiness "would, at best, stay at degraded fiscal 2013 level and in many cases 
would continue to decline," with half of the Air Force's active-duty fighters 
and bombers declared not-combat-ready and two Navy air wings shut for six 
months, it said.

Procurement reductions

Cuts would "affect procurement and research/development most heavily, especially 
non-major procurement" such as accounts that bankroll Army vehicles and Air 
Force missile and ammunition accounts, it said.

The Army's pending $16 billion procurement request would be cut to $12.6 billion 
with sequestration reductions; the Navy's would drop to $37.9 billion from $44.1 
billion and the Air Force's would shrink to $15.5 billion from $18.8 billion.

The accounts with the largest percentage cuts under full sequestration are those 
that bankroll Army aircraft and a category for "other procurement" -- such as 
vehicles, combat engineering, bridging, maintenance and material handling 
equipment, and Air Force ammunition and missiles, according to the document.

The Air Force's "other procurement" request would be cut by 30 percent to $1.6 
billion. That account pays for non-major programs such as mission planning 
systems, drug interdiction, combat training ranges, radios and satellite 
modifications.

Major programs

The Air Force would keep current funding for its version of Lockheed Martin 
Corp.'s F-35 fighter, Boeing Co.'s KC-46 tanker and its long-range bomber 
program.

The Navy would be able to sign all contracts planned for 2014 for vessels funded 
under earlier appropriations. It would be forced to cut one of the four Littoral 
Combat Ships from its 2014 funding request.

Pentagon officials also estimated that the purchase of 25 Navy aircraft would 
probably be cut, including unspecified numbers of Boeing F/A-18 and Lockheed 
Martin F-35 jets, Textron Inc.-Boeing V-22 Ospreys and United Technologies 
Corp.MH-60 helicopters.

A planned overhaul to the CVN-73 USS George Washington aircraft carrier would be 
delayed, the document said.

The Air Force would also have to delay additional purchases of two Advanced EHF 
and two Space-Based Infrared System-High satellites made by Lockheed Martin and 
reduce purchases of air-to-air and air-to-ground cruise missiles made by 
Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Co.

Army aircraft

The Army would be forced to stop or reduce production of the General Atomics 
Grey Eagle drone aircraft and cuts would delay development spending on the 
Ground Combat Vehicle.

The Army's aircraft procurement account, which pays for Boeing and United 
Technologies helicopters, would drop to $3.8 billion from $5 billion as 
production would be "forced down to minimum rates" necessary to sustain 
production lines, it said.

The Army's total research and development request would drop to $6.3 billion 
from $8 billion, it said.

The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency would cancel its F6 
satellite demonstration program, it said.

Furloughs: An Open Invitation to New Opportunties…

We need to get back to our Furlough To-Do list!  We’ve been working on housekeeping items and expanding our reach via Twitter and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/22FurloughDays) and we have wandered off of true path — helping each other to not only survive the furloughs, but to make the most out of the furloughs.

We discussed some financial issues a few posts ago and we’ll keep exploring those.  My husband said he has heard more positive remarks on the furlough finances from his co-workers than negative.  People are looking at their budgets, realizing bad spending habits or wasteful spending, and re-focusing that money towards savings, filling gaps from furlough paychecks, etc.

What we should also do is look at what opportunities the furloughs provide us.  My husband and I made a list of things:

1.  Write a book — haven’t got far on this one yet but we’ll see what FY14 brings…

2.  Do a blog to help others — ’nuff said!

3.  Service — my husband has been in the service of our country as a Submarine Officer and/or a Civil Servant since he was 17 years old.  That’s 30 years!  His first reaction to the furloughs was “10% cut in pay and 10% cut in service — I need to address both of those!”  He proceeded to volunteer for community efforts, investigated joining various boards, and offered his services to a few elected officials.  Just because the government requested less, doesn’t mean he had to do less when it came to public service.

4.  Workout — a great opportunity to develop better exercise habits!

5.  Meditation — still haven’t started this one but we have always been intrigued with this practice so why not?

Why not?  That’s the key — Why not try this or why not do that?  Ask yourself what are some things you have always wanted to do but you have always been able to find an answer to the question “Why not?”.  Often, that answer was “Not enough time.”  Now is the time to explore them!