Coburn calls for partial federal job freeze as sequestration nears

Monday - 2/25/2013, 3:03pm EST

A senior lawmaker wants the Office of Management and Budget to tell agencies to redirect money for open positions to those that are deemed critical in the face of sequestration.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote to Jeff Zients, OMB's deputy director for management, today asking for 10 "lower-priority" positions advertised on USAJobs.gov to be frozen, and for agencies to redirect that money to mission-critical jobs that could be affected under sequestration.

"Instituting a hiring freeze and re-assigning any of the necessary duties associated with each to current employees will allow federal agencies to adapt to the current fiscal realities without laying off or furloughing civil servants who are performing truly critical or absolutely necessary functions," Coburn wrote. "Additionally, has the administration issued, or does it plan to issue, guidance to agencies regarding savings that could be achieved through attrition of non-essential positions?"

OMB Controller Danny Werfel said Sunday that the administration and agencies continue to implement sequestration plans, which will give them a better idea of who and how many employees will face one-day-a-week furloughs starting in April and continuing through Sept. 30.

Among the positions Coburn highlights as being "low-priority" are:

  • Director of Air Force History and Museums Policies and Programs to provide guidance of historical matters throughout the Department of the Air Force. Salary ranges from $143,600 to $165,300.
  • A Director of the Government Employees Services Division for the Agriculture Department to improve services to federal employees. Salary ranges from $119,554 to $179,700.
  • 10 drivers for the State Department. Pay ranges from $22.76 to $26.45 per hour.
  • A Staff Assistant at the Labor Department to answer phones. Salary ranges from $51,630 to $81,204.
  • A Counsel for the Morris K. Udall Scholarship Foundation. Salary ranges from $130,000 to $155,000.

"Are any of these positions more important than an air traffic controller, a border patrol officer, a food inspector, a Transportation Security Administration screener or a civilian supporting our men and women in combat in Afghanistan?" Coburn wrote.

Coburn said he's cut seven full-time positions from his staff to save more than $242,000 during this time of budget reductions.

"Sequestration will require managers of other agencies to make similar decisions, and with smart leadership and a thoughtful re-evaluation of missions and setting of priorities, the quality of services can similarly be preserved," Coburn wrote.

A request to OMB for comment on Coburn's letter was not immediately returned.

Coburn wants an answer from OMB by April 1.

Coburn has been vocal in the fight against government waste and programs that cost billions that, he believes, provide no value to the taxpayer.

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