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Federal Managers Association

Testimony

  • Thursday, June 02, 2011
  • FMA SUBMITS WRITTEN TESTIMONY ON RIGHTSIZING THE FEDERAL WORKFORCE - JUNE 2, 2011
  • Testimony for the Record

    Before the United States House of Representatives
    Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
    Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy

    June 2, 2011

    Rightsizing the Federal Workforce

    Statement Submitted for the Record by
    Senior Executives Association
    Federal Managers Association
    Professional Managers Association

    Chairman Ross, Ranking Member Lynch and Members of the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy:

    On behalf of the principals of the organizations representing the Senior Executives Association (SEA), the Federal Managers Association (FMA) and the Professional Managers Association (PMA), and the over 200,000 managers, supervisors, and executives in the federal government represented by our associations, we appreciate the opportunity to express our views regarding discussions that took place and legislative proposals considered during the May 26, 2011, hearing titled, “Rightsizing the Federal Workforce.” As the managers, supervisors and executives in the federal government, our members have first-hand experience as to the impact cuts to the federal workforce will have on agency missions.

    Detrimental Effects of Arbitrary Workforce Cuts

    Centering on debate over the proper size of the civilian federal workforce and possible strategies to pare down the number of active civil servants, the hearing examined two pieces of legislation introduced in the 112th Congress to enact widespread federal workforce cuts or freeze federal hiring in the name of deficit reduction: the Federal Workforce Reduction Act (H.R. 657), introduced by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), and the Federal Hiring Freeze Act (H.R. 1779), introduced by Rep. Tom Marino (R-Penn.). As you are aware, H.R. 657 would restrict federal hiring to one new employee for every two who leave the civil service, while exempting the Departments of Defense (DOD), Homeland Security (DHS) and Veterans Affairs (VA) from the attrition policy. H.R. 1779 would enforce a hiring freeze until the budget deficit is eliminated. Exceptions are provided for in times of war, to protect vital national security interests, and to honor prior contractual obligations, among other select exemptions.

    While we appreciate the desire to look at all avenues to reduce the deficit, we do not believe that adopting an arbitrary policy of attrition or freezing federal hiring achieves this goal. We are primarily concerned that enacting proposals promoting a government-wide workforce reduction or hiring freeze absent of a comprehensive strategic plan will severely impede agencies’ efforts to acquire the proper staffing levels based on their established missions. H.R. 657 and H.R. 1779, along with similar efforts to cap the federal workforce, fail to account for the services that agencies provide to taxpayers or the necessary personnel levels to effectively provide such services. Agencies that have direct contact with the general public, such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration (SSA), rely heavily on staff to provide needed assistance at a time when American citizens are demanding more from their government. Arbitrary workforce reductions would dramatically impact delivery of services on which American taxpayers depend.

    We are also concerned that efforts to arbitrarily cap or cut the federal workforce do not eliminate programs within agencies that are mandated by Congress, thus leaving responsibilities unfulfilled. Many of the programs and directives that federal agencies carry out are mandated through statute or appropriations. Agencies do not have the flexibility to change their priorities based on levels of staffing. Federal programs assist Americans in myriad ways, from food inspection and cancer research, to law enforcement and transportation safety. A reduction in the size of the federal workforce could amount to a reduction in vital services Americans expect on a daily basis. Instead of promoting arbitrary workforce caps, we encourage you to instead examine the missions and priorities of each agency to determine the work that must be done. In order for lawmakers to show they are serious about reducing the deficit in a sensible manner, agency programs and staffing levels should be evaluated on a program-by-program basis with duplicative programs and processes receiving the most attention. Congress can then provide agencies the flexibility to reallocate resources, including personnel, to effectively carry out those priorities.

    History Demonstrates Impact of Across-the-Board Workforce Cuts

    Past efforts to reduce the civil service carried out during the Clinton administration under the National Performance Review resulted in an immediate deterioration of service to the public, leading to the hiring of contractors to make up for lost work. The negative impacts of those cuts on the remaining managers and the ability of federal employees to meet agency-critical missions have been long-lasting, and many agencies are still tackling increased workloads stemming from civil service cuts in the 1990s. SSA, for example, is still navigating workload backlogs that have continued to affect the services Americans receive and cost the government money. Additionally, upon independent review of the cuts in the 90s, it has been reported that due to the reductions in force and the lack of corresponding workload cuts, the federal government hired hundreds of thousands of contractors to complete the work left behind by the dispatched federal employees. Ultimately, neither the cost nor the size of the entire true federal workforce (including contractors) shrank during this time.

    Reviving Clinton administration-style workforce cuts will also significantly impact the preservation of institutional knowledge. If the federal government hires only one individual to replace every two who leave, institutional knowledge gained through years of experience could potentially be lost. Agencies instead will be staffed by a cadre of new employees who are ill-equipped to do the jobs asked of them. Agencies will be unable to carry out their objectives to the degree required by the public given that new employees often lack vital knowledge that can only be gained through on-the-job experience and mentoring. It is simply irresponsible to repeat the mistakes made in the 90s.

    National Security Exemptions Place Burden on Fewer Agencies

    We are additionally concerned that the exemptions contained in H.R. 657 and H.R. 1779 place an inequitable burden on non-security agencies to bear the brunt of workforce cuts. H.R. 657 exempts DOD, DHS and VA from the attrition policy. Similar exemptions exist in H.R.1779, which excludes certain areas from the hiring freeze, such as occupations related to serving “vital national security interests.” These bills exempt the largest federal agencies which have also experienced the largest recent growth in employees.

    In fiscal year 2010, new hires at DOD, DHS, VA, and the Department of Justice accounted for 77 percent of new government hires. One-third of the federal civilian workforce is employed by DOD, and collectively, employees at DOD, DHS and VA account for two-thirds of the federal workforce. Through the third quarter of FY10, DOD hired 162,911 new employees, adding to its nearly 800,000-person workforce. For FY11, DHS projects hiring thousands of new employees as part of the Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program, adding to its 200,000-person workforce. These statistics show a rising demand in critical programs at these agencies.

    Any hiring proposals must take into account the full hiring and personnel picture. H.R. 657 promotes a replacement rate that would be extended government-wide, not by individual agency, meaning that as workers separate from the civil service, their positions would be placed in a new Federal Workforce Hiring Pool. The President would then have authority to distribute hiring slots to agencies on a competitive basis. By exempting DOD, DHS and VA, the legislation forces non-security agencies to compete over a much smaller pool of potential hiring slots.

    Conclusion

    In looking for a creative solution to develop a more effective federal government, many previous administrations and congressional leaders have focused on what they see as a “bloated” federal workforce. An arbitrary cut of the workforce based upon an across-the-board ratio for the entire federal service is not the answer. Instead, we encourage you to think about the long-term impact that qualified managers have on the ability of an agency to meet mission critical goals. As your Subcommittee continues to debate this issue, focus should be placed on making an objective job-specific determination of where employees are needed, what type of critical skills are required to accomplish the task, and developing and training those individuals to manage their subordinates effectively within the context of governmental and agency performance goals. We look forward to serving as a resource and providing the management perspective on how proposals would affect the operations of the federal government. We eagerly anticipate greater discussion of the topics raised during the hearing, and thank you again for the opportunity to express our views before the Subcommittee.


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