Late last week Congress agreed to a two-week extension of a Continuing Resolution preventing a partial government shutdown for the time being. The new CR expires on December 21.
While a significant portion of the federal government is operating with full-year appropriations for Fiscal Year 2019, the departments of Homeland Security, Treasury, Commerce, Justice, Agriculture, State, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Personnel Management and General Services Administration have operated with budget uncertainty through the first quarter of the fiscal year. And we will not really know what will happen until deep into the holiday season. Santa Claus might be weighed down with coal for a lot of stockings this year.
One of the Federal Managers Association’s longstanding issue briefs urges Congress to provide adequate funding in a timely manner to allow agencies to procure the resources and staffing levels necessary to execute their missions. Providing for the common defense and general welfare of the country is the first duty spelled out in Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. We were pleased that many portions of the government, including the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, has its funding and certainty through FY2019.
While we prefer a continuing resolution to a shutdown of any type, the overreliance on continuing resolutions places enormous stress on federal programs and severely inhibits agencies’ abilities to anticipate funding levels and allocate resources in an effective fashion to boost productivity and the delivery of services. Agencies are handcuffed from obtaining the necessary resources required to handle rising workloads. Budget uncertainty also forces managers and supervisors to focus more on short-term operations and less on their core missions, impeding efficiency and ultimately costing the government and American taxpayers far more money in the long run. This results in piling on to the ballooning federal deficit to be handed to the next generation.
In addition to this uncertainty and inability to properly plan, delaying appropriations and flirting with government shutdowns results in thousands of hours of wasted human resources. It takes substantial time and resources for agencies to prepare for a potential shutdown, when they should be fulfilling agency missions. This fact is often minimized or overlooked completely. FMA urges Congress and the administration to set politics aside and reach a bipartisan agreement to provide funding for the remainder of FY2019 to the many agencies and departments that need it.
A major question tied to this year’s appropriations process is what will happen with federal employee pay in 2019. There have been positive signals that Congress will provide for a 1.9 percent pay raise, but the CR does not address it, and we will not know anything until a final agreement on the outstanding appropriations bills is reached. FMA stands firmly in support of the 1.9 percent pay raise. We are pleased that federal employees in Virginia Beach/Norfolk, Virginia, Burlington, Vermont, San Antonio, Texas, and Birmingham, Alabama, stand to receive locality pay beginning with their January 2019 paychecks if Congress approves a pay raise by the end of the year. These newly designated locality pay areas, which we have written about in the past, are welcome and better late than never.
FMA wishes you a safe and happy holiday season!