Unlike the private sector, the federal government offers no incentives for employees to innovate and take a chance, said former Virginia Representative Tom Davis, director of Federal Government Relations at Deloitte.
In government, if you have savings in your budget, your department does not benefit from those savings, he said.
“In reality, if you want to do more with less, you need a pretty good workforce. You need to train them, you need to take the shackles off them. Let them manage, let them innovate,” he said. “Right now, incentives in government are not to do that, not to take a chance.”
Instead of investing in the federal workforce to do more, Congress is proposing cuts to agency budgets, as well as to federal pay and benefits.
These proposed cuts have become “politically productive” for both sides of the aisle, Davis said.
“That’s why people from outside of the Washington area beat up on federal employees. That’s why they thump their chests, ‘We’re gonna have fewer employees,'” Davis said.
He gives an example from early in his political career. In 1991, Davis became the head of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. At that time, the county was in “awful financial straits.” He asked each agency head to come up with budget cuts. They came up with nothing or very small cuts. Then Davis told the managers that their agency could keep half of what they saved.
“Then the savings came through big-time,” Davis said.