Obama Called on to Give Federal Jobs a Makeover

By Joe Davidson
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Friday, November 7, 2008; D03

Here are some interesting tidbits that recently knocked on the Federal Diary’s door.

The Project On Government Oversight has one of the best acronyms in a city overwhelmed with them. POGO reminds me of Walt Kelley’s comic strip, and that’s almost always a more pleasant thought than whatever problem the organization has uncovered.

Like many organizations, POGO (the organization, not the comic critter) has suggestions for how President-elect Barack Obama should do his job. Some of them center on federal employees.

POGO says Obama should:

· Make federal employment more attractive by changing “pay scales to make them competitive with those in equivalent private-sector jobs, instituting agency honors programs, paying student loans in return for a period of civil service, [and] allowing retired civil servants to retain their pensions even if they are rehired by the government.

· Issue an executive order strengthening federal employee whistleblower protections. He also should boost the status of whistleblowers with commendations, public recognition and monetary awards.

· Examine whether his administration really needs the 4,000 political slots in the executive branch and consider converting some to civil service status “in order to enhance senior level institutional memory and competence at the agency.”

A Good Place to Work

The AARP has selected the National Institutes of Health as one of the best places to work for people over 50. About 42 percent of the NIH workforce is in that age group.

AARP cited various benefits at the Bethesda agency, including “support for tele-work and flexible-work schedules — applying directly to NIH’s mature employees.”

As an example of the Institutes’ flexibility, AARP said NIH made special accommodations for a blind employee. The agency provided space in her office for her guide dog and modified her computer. “Her coworkers received on-site training on disability etiquette, specifically addressing how to work with a blind individual who is assisted by a guide dog,” AARP said.

The Postal Service is the only federal agency on Hispanic Business magazine’s “Diversity Elite 60,” a list of best companies for Latinos. The rankings are determined by more than 30 criteria, including hiring, promotion, marketing, philanthropy and supplier diversity.

The magazine also placed USPS on the publication’s list of “top 10 companies for workforce diversity.” The ranking measures and compares the percentages of Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans and women in the workforce, and gives increased weight to higher-level positions such as managers, according to the Postal Service.

Saturday Delivery

Speaking of the Postal Service, whenever I write about its budget problems that are driven by sharply declining mail volumes, readers suggest stopping Saturday delivery as a way to save money. Here’s what USPS spokesman Gerald J. McKiernan says about that:

“The elimination of Saturday delivery would result in a saving, but it would also mean a loss of volume and the revenue that volume brings. Past surveys have indicated that many Americans would be willing to go without Saturday delivery but the sender side is less certain. Many senders of mail prefer that their deliveries arrive on Saturdays (packages, medicines and ad mail) when it’s more likely that people will be at home.”

Health-Care Choices

Open Season for federal employees begins Monday and runs through Dec. 8. During this period, workers can select health-care related options under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program and FSAFEDS, which is the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program. More information is available at http://www.opm.gov/insure/openseason/index.asp.

You also can discuss Open Season, suggest improvements to the benefit program or vent about its problems at a new online group discussion I’ll be leading on federal workforce issues. It’s called Federal Career Talk: Discuss Federal Employee Issues with the Federal Diary’s Joe Davidson.

Starting Monday, it will be a forum to discuss a variety of topics affecting the federal workplace. You will be able to find it at http://www.washingtonpost.com/fedpage.

Contact Joe Davidson at federaldiary@washpost.com