Around Government

Adjusting for Inflation

Helium shortage could put a damper on some lofty missions in government and industry.  

What’s threatening to bring down balloons, rocket components and medical devices all at the same time? A helium shortage. The element, ubiquitous throughout the universe, is rare on Earth. Most of the world’s supply is a byproduct of natural gas production. 

The primary source in the United States is the Bureau of Land Management’s Federal Helium Reserve near Amarillo, Texas. The reserve came online in 1929 to provide helium fuel for air ships and other military equipment. Now the reserve helps power industry and government missions, such as NASA’s space program. Unfortunately for balloon and rocket enthusiasts, this stockpile is expected to be sold off by 2015.  

So what’s causing the prospects for helium to deflate? 

In 1996, Congress passed the Helium Privatization Act, requiring the federal
government to sell off its supply of 1 billion cubic meters by 2015 to repay a $1.3 billion loss from a helium purchase BLM made in the 1960s. With less than three years to the deadline, it’s looking more like consumers will face shortages, higher prices and delays while government and industry work to find ways to import or extract more of the gas. New facilities are coming online, but it might be too late. 

The Helium Stewardship Act, introduced in the Senate this year, would extend the deadline and adjust market prices to stimulate private production. Given the gridlock and other priorities in Congress, here’s hoping the plan gets off the ground. 

Kedar Pavgi

New Battles After the War

More than 1.5 million veterans are at risk of poverty and homelessness, according to the Center for American Progress. Many rely on federal programs for subsistence. 

In 2011…

1 in 7 homeless adults were veterans

67,000 homeless veterans were counted one January night 

4 in 10 were found unsheltered

30 percent of veterans ages 18 to 24 were unemployed

116,000 with service-related disabilities received VA career services

33,000 received housing assistance from HUD and VA 

1 in 5 households included a veteran in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program 

Starting Over

Federal agencies to occupy six floors in One World Trade Center.

When the 1,776-foot skyscraper rising on the site of the former Twin Towers in New York is complete, federal agencies will once again be among its tenants. 

The General Services Administration signed a 20-year lease for 270,000 square feet of office space in One World Trade Center. GSA has yet to determine which agencies will move in, but has committed to floors 50 through 55 of the new building, which has been under construction since 2006 and is scheduled to be finished in 2013. 

Before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, federal agencies had a long presence in the World Trade Center complex. With GSA’s lease, more than 55 percent of the new office space has been claimed. Not only is the government’s return to the site symbolic to a city healing from the attacks, it also will be a good deal for taxpayers and reduce federal real estate needs in Manhattan, GSA says. 

Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini
says the deal reaffirms government’s commitment to a project that “demonstrates the undaunted resilience of the American people.”

Kedar Pavgi

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