Both the Republican and Democratic parties say they want to update the federal government and bring it into the 21st century.
But, according to the official party platforms that have been unveiled over the past week, they have different visions of what exactly that means.
Democrats mum on federal workforce
The Democratic Party platform, released this week, is short on specifics about the federal workforce, particularly issues relating to federal pay or the size of the federal workforce. However, the platform does cite President Barack Obama’s efforts to pare back overly burdensome regulations and his proposed consolidation of federal agencies.
The release of the Democratic platform comes a week after the Republicans unveiled their plan, which called for downsizing the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition as well as more closely aligning federal pay and benefits with those of the private sector.
“While the Democratic platform does not specifically mention the federal workforce, it stands in sharp contrast to the Republican call for a 10 percent reduction in the numbers of federal employees,” Colleen Kelley, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in a statement.
Kelley said reducing the federal workforce would mean a reduction in government services in “critical areas.”
J. David Cox, the president of the American Federal of Government Employees, pointed out that the platform, while silent on specific federal-employee issues, strongly emphasizes the role of labor unions and the right of workers to collective bargaining.
AFGE, which represents 650,000 federal and District of Columbia employees, voiced its support for the Democratic Party’s platform in a statement released Tuesday.
“The platform details the party’s unwavering support for government employees and all working Americans,” Cox said in the release.
He added the Democratic Party, under Obama’s leadership, would protect programs like Medicare and Social Security and promote economic growth by investing in education, transportation and research.
“The Democratic Party has laid out a vision for the country that focuses on restoring and growing the middle class, creating jobs, investing in the future and ensuring that everyone pays their fair share,” Cox said.
Regulations and reorganization
The platform stressed Obama push toward “rethinking, reforming, and remaking our government.”
Key to that reinvention is the administration’s effort requiring agencies to review and cut back on outdated and unnecessary regulations. The Office of Management and Budget estimated that will save $10 billion over five years.
Obama also directed agencies to review existing federal regulations.
“In response, more than two dozen agencies have released plans to streamline existing requirements,” the platform stated. “Just a small fraction of these initiatives will save billions of dollars in the near future without sacrificing consumer protections, the environment, workplace safety or health.”
Along with the regulatory lookback, is a far-reaching proposed government reorganization to further reduce government overlap.
In his 2011 State of the Union address, Obama first mentioned the idea of a government reorganization to consolidate several business and trade-related agencies. In February, the White House sent Congress proposed legislation giving the President the authority to consolidate and merge agencies.
Technology and transparency
The platform also drew attention to the Obama administration’s efforts to leverage technology in government transparency, citing the Open Government Initiative, which Obama launched shortly after taking office in 2009.
“We are committed to using government as a platform to spur innovation and collaboration,” the platform stated. “Forums such as Data.gov release more information to the public so that the private sector can pioneer innovative new services.”
The platform also said the President had taken “unprecedented steps” in the area of cybersecurity, including the creation of U.S. Cyber Command and a 60-day review of all of the government’s cyber plans and programs.
“We will continue to take steps to deter, prevent, detect, and defend against cyber intrusions by investing in cutting-edge research and development, promoting cybersecurity awareness and digital literacy, and strengthening private sector and international partnerships.”
The platform also noted that Obama supported the comprehensive cyber legislation taken up by the Senate this year. However, the bill, which had drawn bipartisan backers, failed to garner enough support to move forward for a vote.
Faced with the defeat in the Senate, some lawmakers have called on the President to issue an executive order containing new cybersecurity measures, instead of waiting on Congress.
The platform doesn’t specifically address this but did state: “Going forward, the President will continue to take executive action to strengthen and update our cyber defenses.”
The Republican Party platform criticized the administration’s approach to cybersecurity, calling it “heavy-handed” toward industry.
This story is part of Federal News Radio’s daily Cybersecurity Update. For more cybersecurity news, click here.
Francis Rose is the host of In Depth, which airs weekdays from 4-7 p.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC metro area and online everywhere. Francis has covered all three branches of the federal government as a broadcast journalist since 1998. He joined Federal News Radio in 2006, and launched In Depth in 2008 as a daily show focused on connecting federal executives to the information they need to do their jobs better.