The Government’s ‘Use it or Lose it’ Syndrome

While a government shutdown appears imminent, due to political gridlock surrounding budget negotiations, the government has continued to do what they do best: spend taxpayer dollars. Most agencies’ primary concern over the past week has been to spend the remainder of their fiscal year budget instead of relinquishing the unused funds to help save money.

This so-called ‘use it or lose it’ culture promotes wasteful spending and an overall lack of concern for fiscal responsibility. It’s part of the dysfunctional bureaucratic attitude in Washington that prevails across all sections of the federal government.

The fiscal year ends on September 30 and the new fiscal year begins October 1. This ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy means that every agency must use all of the funds allotted to them for the fiscal year by today or that money will be lost and they won’t be able to use it. In that event, Congress could decide that since that particular agency didn’t use all of the funds allotted to them, the amount of money in future budgets should be cut.

So basically every year around September, you see a huge spending spree from government agencies. The reality is that an agency is penalized for saving money and given a pat on the back for spending it, no matter what it’s spent on.

This weekend, The Washington Post reportedThe Department of Veterans Affairs bought $562,000 worth of artwork. In a single day, the Agriculture Department spent $144,000 on toner cartridges. And in a single purchase, the Coast Guard spent $178,000 on ‘Cubicle Furniture Rehab.’”

Now you would think that in a time of budget cuts and austerity those agencies could find a better use for their funds. Instead of buying artwork, the VA could have met some veterans’ disability claims, or implement a bonus incentive to employees who are processing the most. How about hiring more medical staff at VA hospitals? And ‘Cubicle Furniture Rehab’ is a fancy way of saying they bought a large amount of unnecessary office furniture to make employees offices shiny and pretty.

If congress is serious about spending reform and budget cuts they must acknowledge the perverse incentives at work. They might want to start with the backwards, illogical fiscal year ‘use or lose’ culture inside the government that promotes waste and irresponsibility. They can make all of the cuts they want, but until they get to the root of the problem — the endemic spending culture — real reform will not occur. And it isn’t going to be simple, which is why most politicians won’t address it. Most would rather make untargeted cuts to the military that only mask the problem.

Spending reform starts with acknowledging where the problem lies. Leadership must address the ‘use or lose’ race to September 30th that happens at the end of every fiscal year is horrifically wasteful and further promotes fiscal irresponsibility. Accountability must take precedence government wide if there is any hope of progress. Agencies need to be incentivized to save money and their surplus funds should be allowed to be roll over into the next fiscal year. Only then will we see change. Until that happens we are only going to see more threats of government shutdowns, more shifting of blame, and more wasteful spending.

This is government hypocrisy at its finest. In the midst of sequestration, budget cuts and a looming government shutdown, agencies across the board are still free to spend as wastefully as they see fit. It’s this lack of accountability and lack of common sense that is constantly plaguing our government. It is a vicious and inept cycle and we, as American taxpayers, are the ones paying the price for their negligence.

Originally published at The Daily Caller: http://dailycaller.com/2013/09/30/on-the-verge-of-shutdown-government-agencies-are-still-wasting-hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollards/

Follow Amber on Twitter: @AmberBarno

Can Ted Cruz Save America?

Ted Cruz is good for America. The nation is longing for a confident, assertive leader. One who exerts leadership, integrity and courage. An individual who not only preaches principle, but who acts on it as well. We saw those characteristics in Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) yesterday and into today when he spoke on the Senate floor for over 21 hours on why Obamacare is terrible for America and his plea to defund it.

It takes a admirable individual to not only stand for 21 hours, but to articulately speak on a single issue for that long. That requires significant resolve and passion on the subject. We saw honest courage as Cruz stood up to not only Democrats, but to long-term, establishment Republicans who would rather look the other way than do what is right for America and the people they represent.

Republicans like Senator John McCain and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke out against Cruz’s utilization of a ‘filibuster’ without explanation. Their opposition to Cruz standing up and fighting for an issue that the majority of Americans oppose was their way of telling Cruz to stand down and ‘stay in his lane.’ That’s petty behavior for team members on the same side whom all oppose Obamacare. And they did so without providing a logical strategy of their own.  And the truth is, Cruz has gotten such opposition from establishment Republicans because he threatens them. He has put pressure on them to start doing their job, to stand up for those who elected them into office and stop cowering.

The American people are sick and tired of being lied to by career politicians. We are sick of the infighting amongst those in the Republican Party. For the past five years, we’ve have been told one thing while another thing actually happens. The gross dysfunction and gridlock in Washington is out of control and we need leaders who are willing to stand up and take risk to actually accomplish what they ran for office for in the first place. And we saw that in the few Senators who supported and helped Senator Cruz, including Rand Paul (R-KY), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and others.

And to those Americans who would rather criticize and continue to just say you can’t stand politics and politicians, wake up and stop being part of the problem. Start paying attention. This is your country. Be proactive. Stand behind those who actually want to make a difference in preserving this country. Don’t support those who only want to preserve their seat in Congress. A new, younger generation of leadership has emerged within the Republican Party with Ted Cruz at the forefront.

Senator Cruz did more than give a speech for 21 hours. He showed America that he cares about its future. He showed Americans that he is listening and is willing to fight for them. He brought light to the fact that the Affordable Care Act is killing American jobs. Real people are suffering. Real people are losing jobs or are being reduced to part time. Losing work, higher premiums, and higher taxes are the realities of Obamacare.

Well done, Senator Cruz. Thank you for believing in America, listening to the people and for defending the principles that make our nation exceptional. I for one will not forget your courage as you stood up to the establishment to defend the American people. America needs more leaders like you. Keep up the good fight.

Additionally published at http://www.examiner.com/article/can-ted-cruz-save-america

Follow Amber on Twitter at: @AmberBarno

Duty, Honor, Country…Unemployed?

Finding work when you get out of the military should be easy enough, right? You have been tried and tested, some even in combat. You have leadership experience and made life and death decisions that surpass anyone else your age.  You are organized, determined, and motivated to succeed. And because of your priceless experiences and training, you have unlimited potential to be an amazing employee. So what’s the problem?

The military veteran unemployment rate is astonishing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in August, it was 6.2%, but for post-9/11 veterans, the unemployment rate was 10%, which is significantly above the national average.  Our country’s persistent unemployment and underemployment problems has created a very intimidating and discouraging—not to mention fiercely competitive—environment for those transitioning from the military to civilian life.

While the overall numbers are slowly declining, finding long-term employment is still a significant problem for too many of our nation’s veterans. For veterans facing this predicament, here are a few things you can do to help you on your quest for employment.

First, treat unemployment as your ‘job.’ Use that time to perfect your résumé, write cover letters, and conduct practice interviews. This should be a 9-to-5 job. There is always more to be done to increase your odds of landing a job. Practice makes perfect. The job isn’t going to come to you, so make it happen. If you get turned down, get back up, and start looking for new prospects.

Stay organized. Applying for multiple jobs can get chaotic in a hurry. Create a file for each job you pursue and keep sticky notes on the front that remind you where you are in the application process. Each job you apply for requires a résumé specific to the job. Make sure you adjust each résumé to reflect the job description and requirements.

When you create resumes and cover letters make sure you accurately translate your military experiences and training into skills that someone with zero military experience will understand.  Your experience leading combat patrols in Afghanistan may make perfect sense to you, but a human resource professional may get confused and needs help to understand how this background applies to the desk job they are seeking to fill. This will result with your application quickly being moved to the NO pile. Ensure your military translation is clear and relevant to the civilian job position. Have your civilian friends and family members review your résumé to see if it makes sense to them.

Be honest and true to yourself, but don’t be too humble and reserved. In the military, we are used to ‘the quiet professional’ being the standard.  Your years of selfless service were about putting others ahead of yourself. In the civilian world, you need to be more vocal and even self-promotional. You have a small window of time to let hiring personnel learn about you and your experiences. Talk yourself and your accomplishments up.  If you don’t do it, no one else will.

Use social media. Coming from the military, it may seem strange to place such an emphasis on social media when job hunting, but it is critical for networking in today’s job market. If you haven’t already, consider joining Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Follow companies you are interested in working for. They will often post job positions or hiring events. Additionally, when you don’t have business cards, LinkedIn is an excellent tool for professionals to find more information about you and possibly contact you.

Use veterans’ organizations. There are many organizations whose sole purpose is to help military veterans become gainfully employed. They specialize in helping with creating resumes, generating a strategy and providing guidance throughout the job search. Contact them and use their services.

Lastly, do not forget about your GI Bill and education benefits. If the job search is not going as planned, consider furthering your education in your field, which in the long run will increase your probability of landing your desired job. Often colleges have job placement programs to help assist with employment.

Most importantly don’t give up. Remember it is better to be under-employed than unemployed. Any form of employment will allow you to get on your feet, reduce financial stress, further network, and advance your skills. Be patient but motivated and never ever give up. Those are skills that will help any veteran excel and that any employer would be happy to have on his or her team.

Additionally published at: http://www.examiner.com/article/duty-honor-country-unemployed

 

Follow Amber on Twitter: @AmberBarno

Semper Fi: Gary Sinise, Honorary Marine

Semper Fidelis now has a new meaning to actor and musician Gary Sinise. On August 29, the long time veterans advocate was awarded as an Honorary Marine at a dinner at the home of Marine Corps commandant, General James Amos. During the dinner Sinise was pinned with the coveted Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. This is quite unique an honor as only 76 people have shared the title since the Marines inception.

 “This was one of the most extraordinary nights. I was totally surprised by what the general gave me tonight, I’m humbled, shocked, moved and motivated to keep standing up for our men and women and giving back to them,” Sinise said in a statement after being awarded the honor.

General James Amos, who hosted the dinner said “There is little I can say to enhance the rich reputation Gary Sinise has earned, both in the spotlight as an immensely talented actor, and less conspicuously as a tireless advocate for our men and women in uniform. What I can do, what I am privileged and proud to do, is to recognize this humble patriot’s selfless service by making him an Honorary Marine.”  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey attended the dinner as well.

Gary Sinise is a prominent actor, known for his role as Vietnam War veteran LT Dan in the epic film Forest Gump and as Detective Mac Taylor in the TV show CSY: NY.  His interest in helping veterans was sparked in 1994 from his role in Forest Gump as LT Dan. He went on to create a music group called the LT Dan Band and has toured around the globe to different military bases to provide free concerts to military members and their families. Additionally, he created the Gary Sinise Foundation and has raised millions of dollars that provides veterans, troops, and wounded warriors and their families with programs that help give back through education, housing, and entertainment, and more.

Gary Sinise is truly an admirable American who understands the value of our troops and veterans. His continued selfless service and passion for veterans awareness has changed the lives of countless service members and their families. Thank you for your outstanding service to our veterans and congratulations on your well deserved title of Honorary Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Semper Fi!

For more information on the Gary Sinise Foundation, visit: www. garysinisefoundation.org

Follow Amber on Twitter: @AmberBarno

Additionally published at Concerned Veterans for America: http://www.concernedveteransforamerica.org/2013/09/05/semper-fi-gary-sinise-honorary-marine/