Around Government

After anthrax, playing favorites and the year in review.

Tough Transition

Federal initiatives can help service members land on their feet.

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan face an unemployment rate of 12 percent, roughly 3 percentage points higher than overall unemployment.

The federal government has stepped in to help; President Obama in November 2009 signed an executive order aimed at getting federal agencies to collaborate on recruiting more veterans. Launched in January 2010 as part of that initiative, Fedshirevets.gov provides contact information for veteran employment program offices in more than 25 agencies.

Obama also is reaching out to the private sector to solve veteran unemployment; in August he proposed a tax credit of up to $9,600 for businesses that hire veterans, and challenged companies to hire 100,000 veterans by 2013.

What can veterans do to take matters into their own hands? Creating or updating their civilian resume is essential, says Evan Lesser, managing director of ClearanceJobs.com. The resume should detail armed services experience and military skills should be described in language a layperson could understand.

ClearanceJobs.com matches job seekers who hold federal security clearances with top hiring companies. Maintaining credentials can help veterans distinguish themselves from other applicants. "Despite a more difficult economic environment, companies are focused on employing veterans," Lesser says. "For those with an active security clearance, safeguarding that designation will hopefully ease the trepidation of finding a new civilian job."

Caitlin Fairchild

Value Added

It would be hard to argue that federal inspectors general aren't earning their keep. IGs reported to President Obama that their fiscal 2010 probes rescued nearly $7 billion. That figure represents successful criminal and civil cases, plus sums recovered from subjects under investigation. IGs also saved agencies about $23.7 billion through funding recommendations heeded by management. Considering their own $2.2 billion budget, the overseers yielded about a $28.4 billion return on investment.

Despite these accomplishments, the federal government has a ways to go in attacking waste and payment accuracy. Improper payments totaled $125 billion in 2010, an increase of $15 billion from 2009, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

Aliya Sternstein

After Anthrax

While the Brentwood mail facility in Washington has long since been decontaminated, employees there haven't forgotten the 2001 anthrax attacks. About 70 employees and officials gathered for a memorial service to honor the two postal workers, Joseph Curseen Jr. and Thomas Morris Jr., who died as a result of exposure to spores sent through the mail one decade ago.

USPS spends $101 million annually to screen first-class mail for harmful substances. Mail that is sent to federal addresses in Washington receives an extra layer of scrutiny-after being sorted, it goes to an irradiation facility in New Jersey, where it is heated to nearly 150 degrees Fahrenheit and scanned by high-energy electron beams to kill any contaminants.

"The anthrax crisis served as a defining moment for the Postal Service and due to the unwavering dedication and commitment of postal employees across the nation, the mail continued to move," Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement on the 10th anniversary of the crisis.

Caitlin Fairchild

Year in Review

Some of 2011's watershed moments for federal employees:

January

Two-year pay freeze for civilian workers begins. January

Interior Department undergoes its third major reorganization since the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

February

The federal chief information officer releases a strategy for moving about one-fourth of the government's IT footprint to the cloud.

April

Government comes within an hour of shutting down.

April

Hank Krakowski, head of the Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Organization, resigns after incidents involving air traffic controllers sleeping on the job.

May

U.S. Special Forces kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

August

President Obama signs a debt deal, triggering $1 trillion in discretionary spending caps over the next decade and requiring a super committee to come up with $1.5 trillion more in savings.

August

A 5.8-magnitude earthquake literally shakes up the Washington area, testing emergency response plans.

October

Worldwide BlackBerry outage frustrates many feds.

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