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The Federal Civil Service Workforce: Assessing the Effects on Retention of Pay Freezes, Unpaid Furloughs, and Other Federal-Employee Compensation Changes in the Department of Defense

October 31, 2014 Comments off

The Federal Civil Service Workforce: Assessing the Effects on Retention of Pay Freezes, Unpaid Furloughs, and Other Federal-Employee Compensation Changes in the Department of Defense
Source: RAND Corporation

Planners and policymakers must be able to assess how compensation policy, including pay freezes and unpaid furloughs, affects retention. This study begins to extend the dynamic retention model (DRM) — a structural, stochastic, dynamic, discrete-choice model of individual behavior — to federal civil service employment. Models are developed and estimated,using 24 years of data, and then used to simulate the effects of pay freezes and unpaid furloughs. A permanent three-year pay freeze decreases the size of the retained General Service (GS) workforce with at least a baccalaureate degree by 7.3 percent in the steady state. A temporary pay freeze with pay immediately restored has virtually no impact on retention. When pay is restored after ten years, the retained GS workforce falls by 2.8 percent five years after the pay freeze and 3.5 percent ten years after it. An unpaid furlough, similar to the six-day federal furlough in 2013, has no discernible effect on retention. For all subgroups of GS employees for which the model is estimated, the model fit to the actual data is excellent, and all of the model parameter estimates are statistically significant. In future work, the DRM could be extended to provide empirically based simulations of the impact of other policies on retention; to estimate effects on other occupational areas, other pay systems, or specific demographic groups; or to create a “total force” model (military and civilian) of DoD retention dynamics and the effects of compensation on those dynamics.

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New From the GAO

October 30, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Pension Plan Valuation: Views on Using Multiple Measures to Offer a More Complete Financial Picture. GAO-14-264, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-264
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666288.pdf

2. DOD Business Systems Modernization: Additional Enhancements Are Needed for Army Business System Schedule and Cost Estimates to Fully Meet Best Practices. GAO-14-470, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-470
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666294.pdf

3. Federal Real Property: More Useful Information to Providers Could Improve the Homeless Assistance Program. GAO-14-739, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-739
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666258.pdf

4. VA Health Care: Management and Oversight of Consult Process Need Improvement to Help Ensure Veterans Receive Timely Outpatient Specialty Care. GAO-14-808, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-808
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666249.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/666528

5. Energy Policy: Information on Federal and Other Factors Influencing U.S. Energy Production and Consumption from 2000 through 2013. GAO-14-836, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-836
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666271.pdf

6. Disability Compensation: Review of Concurrent Receipt of Department of Defense Retirement, Department of Veterans Affairs Disability Compensation, and Social Security Disability Insurance. GAO-14-854R, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-854R

7. DOD Space Systems: Additional Knowledge Would Better Support Decisions about Disaggregating Large Satellites. GAO-15-7, October 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-7
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666715.pdf

Mental Health Stigma in the Military

October 30, 2014 Comments off

Mental Health Stigma in the Military
Source: RAND Corporation

Despite the efforts of both the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Veterans Health Administration to enhance mental health services, many service members are not regularly seeking needed care when they have mental health problems. Without appropriate treatment, these mental health problems can have wide-ranging and negative impacts on the quality of life and the social, emotional, and cognitive functioning of affected service members. The services have been actively engaged in developing policies, programs, and campaigns designed to reduce stigma and increase service members’ help-seeking behavior. However, there has been no comprehensive assessment of these efforts’ effectiveness and the extent to which they align with service members’ needs or evidence-based practices. The goal of this research was to assess DoD’s approach to stigma reduction — how well it is working and how it might be improved. To address these questions, RAND researchers used five complementary methods: (1) literature review, (2) a microsimulation modeling of costs, (3) interviews with program staff, (4) prospective policy analysis, and (5) an expert panel. The priorities outlined in this report represent a first step for where additional program and policy development and research and evaluation are needed to improve understanding of how best to get service members with mental health disorders the needed treatment as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Continuing Federal Cyber Breaches Warn Against Cybersecurity Regulation

October 29, 2014 Comments off

Continuing Federal Cyber Breaches Warn Against Cybersecurity Regulation
Source: Heritage Foundation

Recent high-profile private-sector hacks have once again put a spotlight on the issue of cybersecurity. This is a serious problem that requires legislation to improve the United States’ cybersecurity posture, but the U.S. should not reflexively adopt government regulation of cyberspace as a solution. There are concerns that such a response would not be cost-effective and would have an adverse effect on innovation. It could also potentially create a mindset of compliance rather than of security. Additionally, the government’s own cybersecurity track record raises questions about the effectiveness of government cyber regulations.

The following is a list of federal government cybersecurity breaches and failures, most of which occurred during 2013 and 2014. This list is part of a continuing series published by Heritage that serves as a long-term compilation of open-source data about federal cybersecurity breaches dating back to 2004.

This list is in no way complete: Some hacks might not be reported or are classified, and others have yet to be realized. In September 2014, Robert Anderson, executive assistant director of the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch of the FBI told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that if a federal department believes it hasn’t been hacked, it is likely that they are simply unaware of the hack. When Senator Coburn asked for a list of all the government hacks the panelists were aware of, he acknowledged that they may have to be discussed in a closed Senate hearing. Furthermore, the list below does not include the large number of private-sector failures. Nevertheless, the seriousness and number of known U.S. government cybersecurity failures undercut the argument for a government-led regulatory approach to cybersecurity.

Cyber Attacks Likely to Increase

October 29, 2014 Comments off

Cyber Attacks Likely to Increase
Source: Pew Research Internet Project

Experts believe nations, rogue groups, and malicious individuals will step up their assaults on communications networks, targeting institutions, financial services agencies, utilities, and consumers over the next decade.

Alternative Futures for Syria: Regional Implications and Challenges for the United States

October 29, 2014 Comments off

Alternative Futures for Syria: Regional Implications and Challenges for the United States
Source: RAND Corporation

The civil war in Syria poses a thorny problem for U.S. policymakers. The conflict has morphed from a popular uprising against an autocratic regime into a multi-sided battle involving government forces, pro-government militias, Hezbollah, Iraqi Shi’ite militias, secular/moderate rebels, Kurdish separatists, traditional Islamist rebels, nationalist Salafi-jihadist rebels, and the transnational Salafi-jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) movement. Most neighboring states and several Persian Gulf states have sent arms and money to one or more of the factions in this war. Iran and Russia have consistently supported the Assad regime, including providing advanced weaponry, since the onset of the conflict. The outcome of the conflict will affect Middle East stability and regional political dynamics for years — perhaps decades — and could exacerbate a wider Shi’a-versus-Sunni sectarian conflict in the region.

Momentum has shifted several times during the course of the conflict. Defections from the Syrian army, rapidly growing rebel ranks, and the regime’s loss of key ground convinced many observers early on that the Assad’s demise was only a matter of time. The Assad regime has exploited rebel weaknesses and its own superior weaponry and external support to shift the momentum once again in its favor. The lineup of antagonists is complex and confused. While still seeing the Assad regime as an adversary based on its patron-client relationship with Iran and its implacable hostility toward Israel, U.S. decisionmakers are also dealing with the threats caused by the dramatic recent gains made in Iraq by ISIS and the influence it wields within the Syrian rebel movement. To examine these challenges, this perspective draws on a December 2013 RAND workshop to assess four possible future scenarios for the conflict in Syria: prolonged conflict, regime victory, regime collapse, and negotiated settlement. The authors update and reassess these scenarios based on developments in Syria and Iraq through August 2014 and explore the implications that each has for Syria, the region, and the United States.

CRS — Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2014 (September 15, 2014)

October 29, 2014 Comments off

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2014 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

This report lists hundreds of instances in which the United States has used its Armed Forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict or for other than normal peacetime purposes. It was compiled in part from various older lists and is intended primarily to provide a rough survey of past U.S. military ventures abroad, without reference to the magnitude of the given instance noted. The listing often contains references, especially from 1980 forward, to continuing military deployments, especially U.S. military participation in multinational operations associated with NATO or the United Nations. Most of these post-1980 instances are summaries based on presidential reports to Congress related to the War Powers Resolution. A comprehensive commentary regarding any of the instances listed is not undertaken here.

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