Federal Times Blogs
A recent call made by 26 senators to keep the Defense Department’s contract spending in check has prompted the Professional Services Council trade association to ”correct the record.”
Several Defense Department policies and spending cuts over the last few years have affected contractors, including a provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act capping Defense Department spending on services for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 at the level of the president’s 2010 budget request, PSC President Stan Soloway said in an April 30 letter to Sens. Sherrod Brown and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Brown and Gillibrand led 24 other senators on an April 25 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta which urged him to carefully consider the workforce mix and to use civilian personnel where possible instead of awarding contracts.
“We understand that the defense budget must be adjusted to take into account new national security risks and budgetary realities. However, we are concerned that while the size of the civilian workforce is proposed to be cut back to FY 2010 levels, no comparable constraints were imposed on workforce hired through contractors,” the senators wrote. “We are concerned that this would incentivize managers to use contracting firms rather than civilian employees even when the latter costs less.”
PSC refuted the senators’ claim that federal employees cost less — a point that has been studied by several groups but has not yet resulted in a clear answer. But Soloway agreed with the senators in their support for allowing agencies the flexibility to manage their personnel as strategically as possible.
“In some functional areas, the government has a clear need to enhance its workforce capacity and capabilities,” he wrote. ”Likewise, it may well be necessary to increase contractor support for the mission-critical, high-end skills that the government does not compete well for in the broader human capital marketplace. Unfortunately, your letter does not recognize this balance.”
The Air Force yesterday said it will fully lift its four-month-old hiring freeze on Thursday, and is planning a second round of buyouts and early outs in January to further cut staffing levels.
The hiring freeze, which was imposed in August and was originally supposed to only last three months, helped the Air Force cut nearly 9,000 civilian positions. But it still has to cut another 4,500 to reach its goal of reducing its civilian workforce by 13,500.
“We have made significant progress in reducing manning levels through various programs,” Michelle LoweSolis, civilian force integration director for the Air Force Personnel Center, said Dec. 13. “But in some areas we are still short of the goal, so the freeze was extended in those targeted areas to help us work toward that end.”
The Air Force said many of the positions marked for elimination were already vacant, and the hiring freeze produced more vacant positions. It has also offered buyouts and early outs to up to 4,000 employees to get them off the rolls by Dec. 31.
The Air Force said it hasn’t yet decided who will be able to apply for the next buyouts and early outs.
“There are many moving parts involved in this effort, and we are all working to ensure employees whose positions have been targeted for elimination are quickly placed in positions vacated by those who accepted [early outs] and/or [buyouts],” LoweSolis said.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry yesterday released his “Cut, Balance and Grow” plan for cutting federal spending and balancing the budget. It includes what should be a familiar refrain by now: Freeze federal employees’ hiring and pay raises “until the budget is balanced.”
The federal workforce has ballooned under the current administration, with 175,000 new positions being created since 2009. Americans deserve a leaner, more efficient federal workforce, not one that pays its employees far more than what comparable private employees receive, or one that hands out bonuses and promotions regardless of performance. Federal bureaucrats should not receive real increases in pay while taxpayers are losing their jobs and struggling to pay their bills.
This is the first presidential campaign I can recall where federal staffing and pay has been such a hot political issue. With Republican lawmakers peppering the deficit reduction supercommittee with proposals that hit feds’ paychecks and jobs, feds should expect a lot more of this kind of talk over the next year.
Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., yesterday introduced a bill that would freeze most federal hiring until the budget deficit is eliminated.
Marino’s office said that the Federal Hiring Freeze Act, HR 1779, would not allow agencies to replace any positions when employees leave, drastically reducing the federal workforce through attrition. If an agency needed to fill a position for national security reasons, it would have to get approval.
The government would still be able to hire new law enforcement officers, and the U.S. Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission would also be excepted under the bill. Short-term, seasonal hires, transitional positions involving a presidential administration, and reassignments of personnel within the same agency would be excepted.
Republicans have introduced several bills in recent months seeking to balance the budget in part by cutting federal personnel costs.
The National Treasury Employees Union is the first union out of the gate responding to the GOP’s promise to freeze non-security federal hiring if they retake one or both houses of Congress. NTEU President Colleen Kelley just released a statement that said the freeze would “result in less effective, less efficient services being provided to the public.”
Even under a hiring freeze the work of the federal government would still have to be done, as the American public expects. But without sufficient staffing, federal agencies would be forced to turn to unaccountable and costly private contractors.
This would return our country to the policies of the previous administration which encouraged unaccountable contracting including the use of no-bid, sole source and cost plus agreements. The effort to move federal work out of the hands of federal employees resulted in higher costs to taxpayers, poor services and questionable transactions.
The Republicans’ proposal would not halt all hiring, however. A spokeswoman for Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said that agencies under the freeze could hire to replace attrition, as long as there is no net increase in the size of the workforce.