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Eye Opener: Feds get 1/2 day on Christmas Eve

By Ed O'Keefe

President and Mrs. Obama at the "Christmas in Washington" concert Sunday night at the National Building Museum. Pictured with them from left, Sugarland's Kristian Bush, singer Mary J Blige, and George Lopez (far right) (AP)

Eye Opener

Happy Monday! (Unless you're Silvio Berlusconi?) Federal workers got an early Christmas present from President Obama late on Friday, when he ordered an extra half-day of vacation starting at midday on Christmas Eve.

As he usually does with such personnel matters, Obama's order notes that agency heads can determine if certain offices must remain open or if certain employees needs to work a full day next Thursday.

Presidents traditionally give employees an extra day of vacation when Christmas falls on Tuesday or Thursday, notes Tom Shoop of Government Executive.

Shoop also notes that last year George W. Bush ordered agencies closed on Friday Dec. 26, giving most government workers a four day holiday. In 2002 when Christmas fell on a Wednesday, Bush gave federal workers a half day of vacation on the day before.

Obama's move mirrors a similar decision made by Bill Clinton in 1998, when Christmas Eve fell on a Thursday.

Will Obama's half-day of vacation will make up for next year's 2 percent civilian pay raise -- an increase that has upset some federal workers?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Cabinet and Staff News: Second Lady Jill Biden speaks out on politics, life and her work as a college professor. Obama's economic advisers send mixed signals during Sunday talk show appearances. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano talks immigration, border security, terrorism with her old hometown paper. Scoring Obama's national security team. A Ben Bernanke score card. Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's lawyers want interviews with Obama, Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett. The FAA administrator says the agency is moving ahead with its NextGen system. The new National Zoo director, Dennis W. Kelly, comes to Washington from Atlanta.

Bleak times at the USPTO make big fee hikes more likely: It will come as no surprise to anyone that the agency is struggling in the face of the financial set-backs it has had to deal with.

Kansas National Guard closes 18 armories: The closings were a result of the state’s tight fiscal situation and careful deliberation. The closings will be completed in most cases by the end of February.

Performance pay funding for teachers may increase: Federal funding for performance pay in public schools would quadruple, to $400 million a year, under a bill moving through Congress.

Spending measure clears Senate: The $447 billion omnibus spending bill contains thousands of earmarks and double-digit increases for several Cabinet agencies.

VA cost-cutting idea wins contest: An idea to allow veterans to take leftover medication home with them when they leave the hospital has won a contest designed to pick the best government cost-saving idea.

As Open Season ends, feds' full attention turns to health care reform: Federal employees and their advocates are keeping close watch on the health care reform legislation being hashed out in Congress.

Cuba detains contractor for U.S. government: The contractor is an American citizen working on contract for the U.S. Agency for International Development who was distributing cellphones and laptop computers to Cuban activists.

Letter to Kerry outlines 'serious substantive concerns' with Iran sanctions bill: In a previously unreported development, the State Department sent a letter to Congress Friday, asking lawmakers to hold off moving on Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd's Iran sanctions bill until the new year.

IRS hires "hundreds" for new wealth unit: A new agency unit set up to catch rich tax cheats hiding their wealth in complex business entities is rapidly taking shape with the hiring of hundreds of employees.

Pay czar grants waivers after government lobbying: Kenneth Feinberg said Friday that lobbying by Treasury and Federal Reserve officials helped persuade him to exempt about 12 executives from his new salary cap.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | December 14, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Question: Obama's half-day of vacation will make up for next year's 2 percent civilian pay raise?

Answer: Not as long as NSPS takes the raise to fund the pay pool and the jokers at the top give out bonuses their peeps.

Posted by: dezlboy1 | December 14, 2009 6:56 AM | Report abuse

Hopefully the President has ordered it in such a way that we will actually get the halfday holiday this time. Dept of the Navy rules didn't allow us to enjoy the halfday at Thanksgiving like the rest of the federal workforce. "...can't be used to create or extend a holiday..." is what we were told. Didn't make sense since the previous president gave us off last Christmas holiday...

Posted by: TexasRN | December 14, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Will the half day holiday apply even if you were planning to take leave for the whole day? The executive order doesn't say anything about that. It sure would be good to only have to take 4 hours of leave instead of 8.

Posted by: vapensant1 | December 14, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

No big loss. The contractors, who constitute the bulk of the workforce, and who do NOT get that afternoon off (despite the claim that we are All One Team) may actually be able to get some work done.

Posted by: wildfyre99 | December 14, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

wildfyre99 - it's dissapointing to hear your not getting your work done. Which contractor do you work for and how many other contractors aren't getting their work done?

Posted by: justanotherguy | December 14, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Under the current economic conditions, President Obama's extra half-day of vacation for Federal employees on Christmas Eve is both reasonable and generous. Thanks Prez!

Posted by: DownSouth2 | December 14, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

I don't have a quarrel with the 2% raise - I'm grateful to have steady employment. I do hope, though, that the military continues to get the 3 or 4 percent raises that they have been getting in recent years - they still don't make much.

Posted by: EinDC | December 14, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

No big loss. The contractors, who constitute the bulk of the workforce, and who do NOT get that afternoon off (despite the claim that we are All One Team) may actually be able to get some work done.

Posted by: wildfyre99 | December 14, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure how getting a half day as opposed to the traditional full day is supposed to appease workers who got a 2% raise instead of the 3.5% he gave to the military. Is getting half a loaf better than a full?

I also don't see much benefit to a half day. You still have to commute there and back in DC traffic, so you will just have your typical rush hour commute, just 4 hours early. Factor in the typical 1-hour each way commute and your 10 hour day is still 6.

Posted by: AxelDC | December 14, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Hello, Kool-aid drinkers: I hate to tell you this, but federal workers get dismissed early on the day before Christmas on a routine basis, at the discretion of their agency head, whether the President says so or not. I have been sent home midday before Christmas and Thanksgiving every year I've worked in the federal government, including during the Clinton and Bush administrations, but neither of them felt compelled to make a public announcement about it. Obama is taking credit for something that happens as a matter of course. O'Keefe should have done some research before drinking the Kool-aid.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | December 14, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I'm grateful for steady employment, but Presidents really should stop under valuing the Civillian workforce. We have a volunteer army, they get the GI Bill, preference when applying for Federal Jobs, etc. Their commitment to country should be honored, but I don't know that they need an increase roughly double that of Civillian workers.

Posted by: CurrentFED | December 14, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

WashingtonDame, that is why I am asking about whether this applies as a half-day "holiday" regardless of leave status. The routine half day dismissal is only for those in pay status for the day, not for all.

Posted by: vapensant1 | December 14, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

When do these people work?

Posted by: jckdoors | December 14, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

jckdoors, this week I will put in about 50 hours, including a late night observing focus groups in preparation for a major new initiative (that will be a 12 hour day). When do you work? And do you begrudge me my holiday vacation time (which I have earned)?

Posted by: vapensant1 | December 14, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

All agency heads do not allow federal or local government workers to utilize the perk of an early dismissal. Many agency heads leave it up to their managers and they stress it's there decision. Glad some workers have enjoyed this federal gift while others catch up on work they leave for their coworkers with a less hectic commute. Merry Christmas!

Posted by: drfields | December 14, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

You know I wonder about the same thing, contractors' can't get the work done, why? I would be very interested in knowing who they work for and where also. Might be time for those individuals to free up those positons for government employees, you know, to save some money! So cheerios, wildfyre99!

Posted by: aowilk25 | December 14, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Where I work we do not get 4 hours off on Thanksgiving. Maybe 1 hour admin if Your management feels like it. We only get half day on xmas eve if the Pres says so.
Besides while private industry gets there xmas bonus, 4 hrs of leave is the only bonus that the common workerbee Fed will get. Can't wait for this NSPS to stop either. Stop those jokers at the top and their buddy buddy system which is why the GS schedule was created in the first place under the Civil Service Commission (OPM). Might be the one good thing this administration has done. PLUS get rid of the private contracting out which saves no money anyway.

Posted by: Solitaire40 | December 14, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

hey wildfyre99 - why not answer my question (I noticed you logged in again and left the exact same message)? Since you claim you're not getting your work done, I wonder if instead of taking a shot at other employees, could you let us all know where you work and if other contractors are getting their work done? Please educate us. Please ...

Posted by: justanotherguy | December 14, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

To vapensant1, the way this works is, if you have scheduled your annual leave for Christmas Eve, then you are not supposed to be granted the free leave from the President. Now, if you cancel your annual leave and report to the office that day, then I you will be able to take advantage of the free leave like everyone else. The biggest thing is being in regular work status (not on annual leave) to gain the free leave.

Posted by: ServingAmerica | December 14, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

ServingAmerica -- Unfortunately, that is incorrect information for December 24.

See the CHCO memo issued by OPM at

That memo makes it very clear "An employee who was previously scheduled to take annual leave on December 24th will not be charged annual leave (or any other form of paid leave, compensatory time off, or credit hours) for the last half of the scheduled workday."

Posted by: CorrectInfo | December 15, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

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