Issa, who is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee; Ross, who is chairman of the subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, the Postal Service and Labor Policy; and Chaffetz, who is chairman of the subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations, have been among the most outspoken members questioning the size and pay of federal workers.
Ross’s subcommittee has held four hearings since March on federal worker issues, including one on May 26 asking what is the right size of the federal workforce.
“In 1996, Bill Clinton declared the era of big government to be over,” Issa said in a release. “From January 1994 to December 2000, the administration and Republicans in Congress worked together to reduce the size of the federal workforce by 381,000. Because of explosive growth in the federal workforce in this administration, these accomplishments have been erased. This bill will help us reverse the growth curve.”
Ross added that as federal employees retire, the government cannot afford to replace them on a one-for-one basis.
The bill would limit the number of employees starting in fiscal 2015 to 90 percent of the total as of Sept. 30, 2011.
To meet this goal, the bill would require agencies to replace every three employees who retire or leave government with one new employee between the time the bill becomes law and Sept. 30, 2014.
The lawmakers also don’t want agencies to make up for the employees by hiring contractors. The bill would not let agencies increase the number of service contracts except where “a cost comparison demonstrates that such contracts would be to the financial advantage to the government.”
Federal employee unions came out strongly against the new bill.
“A bill introduced in the House of Representatives to reduce the size of the workforce is a short-sighted proposal that would only undermine the federal government’s ability to deliver vital services, shift work to more costly, less effective private contractors and endanger public health and safety,” said Colleen Kelley, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), in a release.
“H.R. 2114, Reducing the Size of the Federal Government Through Attrition Act of 2011, arbitrarily seeks to slash the size of the federal workforce by 10 percent by 2015 claiming somehow that this will make government more efficient. And 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.’ Additionally, the bill ignores the fact that despite the increasingly complex issues the nation faces, its executive branch workforce in 2009 had almost 200,000 fewer employees than in 1968, and the majority of those positions are in the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.”
Committee Democrats have been pushing back against the idea that the federal workforce is both too large and has grown under the Obama administration.
Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said at the May 26 hearing that the federal workforce has decreased significantly since the 1960s when measured in terms of number of workers per capita. Cummings said according to the Office of Management and Budget, in 1962 there were 13.3 executive branch employees for every 1,000 Americans, while as of 2010, there were 8.4 – the lowest level in the past 50 years.
“On this point I would like to be very clear – cutting the federal workforce is not a magic solution to our financial troubles,” Cummings said during his opening statement of the hearing. “Cutting the federal workforce does not diminish the demand for taxpayer services. For that reason, proposed indiscriminate cuts stand to have one of two effects: (1) increasing the more costly contractor workforce, or (2) reducing the efficiency and effectiveness of the services delivered to taxpayers.”
Along with the Issa, Ross, Chaffetz bill, Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Tom Marino (R-Pa.) have legislation to reduce or freeze the federal workforce. Lummis’s legislation, the Federal Workforce Reduction Act of 2011 (H.R. 657), would require agencies to hire one new employee for every two that left through retirement or other attrition. Lummis’ proposal would exempt the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.
Marino’s bill, the Federal Hiring Freeze Act of 2011 (H.R. 1779), would freeze hiring at all federal agencies and for contractors, except for federal law enforcement purposes, national security interests, reassignment of personnel to fill needed positions and the Postal Service, among others.
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