The Office of Personnel Management released a new guidebook on how agencies should begin preparing for workforce reshaping efforts. It also updated key documents on issuing administrative furloughs. Both guides are designed to help agency heads implement possible reductions in force or furloughs so that they comply with the law and do the least damage.
The process might not be pretty, but budget experts predict civilian agencies won’t face $18 billion in spending cuts during the last five months of fiscal 2017. The President submitted a budget amendment for 2017 last week, which proposed major boosts to defense and homeland security spending and civilian agency offsets.
The Veterans Affairs Department, Congress and Government Accountability Office all agree: an outdated and inflexible hiring process and serious shortcomings with the department’s human resources functions are prohibiting the agency from quickly filling at least 45,000 open health care positions.
A new bill that would limit how much time doctors, nurses and other employees at the Veterans Affairs Department could spend on union business has support now from VA itself. The department said having its employees spend 100 percent of their hours on official time is “necessary, reasonable and in the public’s best interest.”
The full 2018 budget proposal could include a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees. This number is in line with the annual pay adjustment formula set under Title 5 of the U.S. Code for most federal employees under the General Schedule. The President can ultimately choose to differ from this formula and must tell Congress of his alternative by Sept. 1.
Employees who handle veterans benefits claims and the disability claims backlog, as well as some cybersecurity professionals, are among the Veterans Affairs Department’s additional hiring freeze exemptions. VA Secretary David Shulkin announced more exemptions in a March 13 memo to staff.
The White House is also requesting a $3 billion boost to the Homeland Security Department, along with an additional $30 billion in defense and Overseas Contingency Operations funding for fiscal 2017. Civilian agencies would shoulder $18 billion in spending cuts. The additional funding for DHS would help the department prepare and enact the President’s executive orders on border security and immigration.
President Donald Trump offered a first look at his upcoming management agenda in the 2018 budget blueprint. The agenda will focus on eliminating agency reporting requirements on IT, acquisition, human capital and real property and letting “managers manage.” It also suggests the budget and reorganization executive order initiatives will drive future agency workforce cuts.
The Government Accountability Office is questioning whether the right people, skills and leadership were devoted to the Veterans Affairs Department’s past efforts to remove VA healthcare from the High-Risk List. But current VA leadership insisted it’s paying attention and asked for patience as it continues to transform the department.
With the President’s fiscal 2018 budget expected later this week, lawmakers and federal employee unions are gearing up for what could be a long and contentious fight over civilian agency spending and possible cuts to other federal employee programs. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association says the 2018 budget is its biggest challenge this year.
The Office of Personnel Management granted additional exemptions to the President’s temporary hiring freeze. OPM and the Office of Management and Budget gave agencies permission to ask for others if they fall outside of the administration’s original exemption guidance.
Official time has been a hot topic for House lawmakers this week. A new bill would limit official time for all employees at the Veterans Affairs Department and would set special limits for doctors and other workers involved in direct patient care.
The U.S. Postal Service is turning around its reputation — from the agency whose employees managed to coin the phrase “going postal,” to an organization that now quickly processes equal employment opportunity complaints. USPS is offering those services to other agencies.
If the 114th Congress was about dissecting the Veterans Affairs Department’s challenges, then the 115th Congress will act quickly to solve them, leadership on the House Veterans Affairs Committee said.
Amid reports that the White House is planning budget cuts at the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for the President’s border security and immigration policies, some senators are worried the Homeland Security Department will forget the lessons it’s learned about risk-based management. They asked Elaine Duke, the nominee to be the DHS deputy secretary, about her approach to future budgetary decisions.