Romney's private-sector approach to government includes realigning pay, downsizing workforce

Tuesday - 9/4/2012, 3:59pm EDT

It's no secret Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney envisions broad changes to the federal government and its workforce.

Many of his supporters hope the former governor and business executive will bring his private-sector experience with him to the White House and run the government like a business.


I will look to
sharply increase
the productivity
of Washington


— Mitt Romney

In campaign speeches, Romney speaks of aligning federal pay with that of the private sector. "Federal compensation exceeds private sector levels by as much as 30 to 40 percent when benefits are taken into account," his campaign website states. "This must be corrected."

Shortly after clinching the GOP nomination, he promised to "stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve."

Just this week, speaking before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Romney provided more specifics on his plan for scaling back the federal government and the workforce it employs.

$500 billion workforce, program cuts

He described a multi-pronged approach to balancing the budget by "eliminating programs that are not absolutely essential" and returning authority for some programs to the states.

Romney's proposals

Align federal employee compensation with the private sector

Reduce federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition

Reduce waste, fraud and abuse — including cutting improper payments

Combine agencies and departments to reduce overhead

Romney also said he would "look to sharply increase the productivity of Washington" by:

  • Reducing the federal workforce by 10 percent thorough attrition, hiring only one new federal employee for every two that leave the ranks of the civil service and realigning federal compensation

  • "Cracking down" on the $115 billion the government wastes on improper payments

  • Combining federal agencies and departments

All told, Romney said his proposals would save $500 billion annually by the end of his first term.

In broader budget terms, Romney has vowed to cap federal spending at 20 percent of GDP and said he plans to seek a 5 percent cut in nonsecurity discretionary spending starting with his first day in office.

Targeting unions?

A few days after that speech, video of a private fundraising event from May surfaced, in which Romney suggested federal unions could hamper his efforts to downsize the workforce.

At the event, a man recommended Romney "clean house" at the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, two financial regulatory agencies, which the questioner called "disaster areas."

"I wish they weren't unionized, so we could go a lot deeper than you're actually allowed to go," Romney replied, ostensibly referring to job cuts.


We will stop the
unfairness of
government workers
getting better pay and
benefits than the
taxpayers they serve


— Mitt Romney

Naturally, federal unions jumped on those comments.

William Dougan, the president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said Romney's recent comments "set a disturbing precedent for what may befall the federal workforce if Romney were to be elected President." Romney's comments point to a "governing philosophy that ignores the vast contributions federal workers make to their country every day," Dougan said in an emailed comment.

In an email statement to Federal News Radio, the Romney campaign did not address how their candidate would manage the federal workforce if elected President.

"Mitt Romney has spent his career executing turnarounds in the private sector, the Olympics, and state government," the statement read in part. "He will bring to Washington the turnaround philosophy it so badly needs."

Party platform, VP pick also provide signals

Last month at the Republican National Convention, party officials unveiled their platform, which echoed Romney's call for a smaller federal workforce through attrition.

Even earlier, Romney's selection of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate, provided hints of how a Romney administration would handle the federal workforce.

Ryan's most recent budget proposal called for extending the current two-year pay freeze through 2015 and requiring federal workers to contribute more toward their retirements, which would have the effect of cutting take-home pay.

Unions have decried the talk of extended pay freezes and workforce cuts, saying too often federal pay and benefits are treated as a piggybank in deficit-reduction efforts.

"The stakes are very high when it comes to maintaining a well-trained and capable federal workforce, said American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox at a Senate committee hearing on the federal workforce this week. Freezing salaries and "bullying us with nasty comments about our work and work ethic" doesn't help, Cox added.

Federal News Radio also examines what a second term for President Obama would mean for federal employees. Read the story.


More from the special report, The Obama Impact: Evaluating the Last Four Years

Part 1: Evaluating the Obama administration's management initiatives

Part 2: Evaluating Obama's technology reforms

Part 3: Evaluating Obama's workforce initiatives

Part 4: Evaluating Obama's acquisition efforts

Part 5: What will the next four years bring?