Buzz of the Week

Budget showdown, fiscal 2008 edition

As of July 30, there are nine weeks — 63 days to be exact — left until the end of the government’s fiscal year.

Most agencies are operating on a continuing resolution for fiscal 2007 because of the last Congress’ inability to pass spending bills. And this year is not looking much better. When the Democrats took over on Capitol Hill, the prospect of getting the 12 spending bills through Congress and signed by the president seemed like a pipe dream.

And true to expectation, with about two months left until the end of the fiscal year, Congress has not approved any of the 12 spending measures. And five of the eight the House has passed have been branded with President Bush’s rarely used veto threat. The Bush administration’s Statements of Administration Policy cite an “irresponsible and excessive level of spending,” among other reasons for the veto threat.

Paradoxically, the two agencies that did get 2007 appropriations — the departments of Defense and Homeland Security — seem like the least likely to get appropriations passed this year. The Defense bill is caught in the power tug-of-war between the two sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate majority leader, Harry Reid (D-Nev.), requested a meeting with President Bush to see whether they can work out an agreement on the appropriations bills. Congress wants to “avoid a protracted battle over relatively small differences,” Pelosi and Reid said in a July 20 letter to the president. “Although our respective budgets clearly reflect many differences in priorities, we actually are remarkably close to agreement about the overall level of spending. In fact, the difference between our respective levels of total appropriations amounts to less than 1 percent of the federal budget.”

Unfortunately for agencies, most experts say they don’t see a way to avoid a clash between Congress and the White House.

And, for executives hoping to plan on funds for programs, it looks as though there may be another end to a fiscal year without a plan for the next year.


THE BUZZ CONTENDERS

#2: Where's Doan?
Not that Federal Computer Week is obsessed with Lurita Doan, but where has she been this past week? Certainly not hanging around the White House waiting to get a pink slip. No, Doan, the General Services Administration’s administrator, has been on the road. On July 24, Doan gave the kick-off keynote at the 7th annual National Motor Vehicle and Aviation Exposition in Orlando, Fla., where she told fleet managers that GSA is helping agencies drive “green.” Doan let the fleet managers know that she has ordered an alternatively fueled vehicle to replace the traditional car designated for official use by the GSA administrator.

After leaving Orlando, Doan was off to New Orleans to address the National Black Chamber of Commerce July 27. Ladies and gentlemen....

#3: Health care management, your way?
A Web portal — My eBenefits — figured prominently in the concise list of recommendations that the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors gave the president July 25. My eBenefits would provide each service member and veteran a personalized Web page where he or she could go to make appointments, maintain confidential health records, apply for various benefits and manage financial planning. The health records would be available electronically to each service member’s recovery coordinator — a new position recommended by the commission — and to the various health care workers committed to helping wounded warriors get on with their lives.

#4: Let's coordinate
The nine-member commission on health care for veterans, led by former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), gave military health systems a one-sentence kick in the pants. “The patchwork of programs, rules and regulations affecting injured service members is mirrored in the complicated, uncoordinated information technology systems that support these activities,” the panel members wrote. Ouch.

#5: Something's in the air
Contract watchers anticipate a big announcement this week from the General Services Administration about the award of Alliant and Alliant Small Business, a pair of governmentwide acquisition contracts for information technology management services, applications and infrastructure.
Heads up.

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