Pink slips and budgets
Members of Congress are well into their August recess, meeting with constituents and raising funds for their re-election campaigns. We would love to join in those discussions with the folks back home, but we suspect those are different conversations about money than the kind we would most like to have.
It’s not a secret that the government’s budgeting process is broken. But there is so much heat about other issues — such as the size of government and the “fiscal cliff” — that there is little attention paid to the fact that agencies need to know how much Congress wants them to spend, on what and when. No reputable company could operate for three-quarters of its fiscal year without a budget, yet this is now standard operating procedure in Washington.
Some defense contractors have been trying to change the conversation by letting elected officials know that if the sequestration process proceeds, hundreds of thousands of workers will be laid off. In fact, the pink slips are due to be delivered right before the election.
The companies say they are required to take these actions under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, but many believe the companies are trying to connect the dots between spending cuts and employment in a legislator’s district — just in time for those trips back home.
That threat, among other factors, might have gotten Congress’ attention. No real appropriations are in sight yet, but both sides seem ready to stop fighting for a moment and pass a six-month continuing resolution that will once again kick the can down the road.
Better than a government shutdown, to be sure. But it says a lot about the budget limbo we live in that yet another continuing resolution counts as progress.
Anne Armstrong is president and chief content officer of 1105 Government Information Group.