GOP lawmakers unveil bill to reduce government workforce
By Kellie Lunney,Government Executive
House lawmakers have introduced legislation that aims to reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent by 2015 through attrition.
A trio of Republicans unveiled a bill that would allow hiring one federal employee to replace every three workers who retire or leave their job. The legislation is based on a policy proposal in the House-passed fiscal 2012 budget resolution, which also recommended a freeze on federal pay through 2015.
Other similar measures could be coming down the pike. "The committee remains interested in finding additional savings," said Ali Ahmad, communications adviser to the majority House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Lawmakers expect the workforce reduction proposal would save $127.5 billion during the next decade. "This bill will help us reverse the growth curve," said House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who sponsored the bill along with fellow Republicans Dennis Ross of Florida and Jason Chaffetz of Utah.
"Office of Personnel Management projections suggest approximately 400,000 federal employees are currently eligible for retirement," said Ross, who is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy. "As these workers leave, we cannot let this opportunity to save taxpayer money pass."
The 2011 Reducing the Size of the Federal Government Through Attrition Act would make exceptions for certain national security concerns, or any event threatening public health or safety. The attrition policy would stay in effect through Sept. 30, 2014. The bill also includes a provision that limits procurement on service contracts to supplement the reduced workforce "except in cases in which a cost comparison demonstrates that such contracts would be to the financial advantage of the government."
National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley was skeptical about the provision. "While the bill claims work will not be shifted to contractors, it opens an enormous loophole to allow new contracts when there is a claim of 'financial advantage,'" she said in a statement.
Groups that advocate for federal managers and employees fear an "arbitrary," across-the-board freeze would leave certain job responsibilities unfulfilled and have an adverse effect on the government's ability to deliver services to the American public. "We are primarily concerned that enacting proposals promoting a governmentwide 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," said testimony submitted by the Federal Managers Association, Senior Executives Association and Professional Managers Association in response to a May 26 hearing on rightsizing the federal workforce.
Beth Moten, legislative director for the American Federation of Government Employees, also criticized the proposed 10 percent reduction, calling it a number "plucked out of thin air." Moten pointed to the 1990s government downsizing initiative which resulted in more contractors doing the work of federal employees. "It didn't work in the 1990s, and it won't work now," she said.
Other lawmakers have introduced similar legislation to reduce the federal workforce. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., introduced a bill in April to prohibit agencies from hiring new employees until the deficit eases. The measure allows for "common-sense" exceptions for national security and law enforcement. It exempts the U.S. Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission and reassignments within the same agency, and it allows for short-term, seasonal hiring and transitional positions involving a new presidential administration.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., in February reintroduced the Federal Workforce Reduction Act, which would reduce the size of the federal workforce by attrition through the hiring of only one employee for every two who retire or leave service. That bill also would require agencies to justify their new hires and the administration to report to Congress all new employees by agency.
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