GOP lawmakers pitch fed workforce reduction bill

Wednesday - 6/2/2010, 7:10am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

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By Max Cacas
Reporter
Federal News Radio

Republican lawmakers think the best way to solve the nation's budget deficit is to cut down on the number of federal workers. But is this the best way to accomplish the goal?

HR 5348 -- the "Federal Workforce Reduction Act" is part of a package of bills dubbed "Cut Spending Now" introduced by minority members of the House Budget Committee.

Wyoming Republican Cynthia Lummis, one of the principal co-sponsors of the workforce bill, said in a prepared statement on her Web site, "The package identifies $1.3 trillion in savings for American taxpayers and focuses on Americans' top priorities: private sector job creation and fiscal responsibility. This is a step in the right direction." (Federal News Radio attempted to get further comment from Lummis and other supporters of the measure, but we did not receive a response in time for our deadline.)

If approved and signed into law, the bill would essentially freeze hiring for all non-national security jobs at agencies other than the Pentagon, the Departments of Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs. The measure would also allow the government to replace only half of the federal workers slated to retire.

For some perspective, we turned to John Salamone, senior consultant with Federal Management Partners in Alexandria. He was executive director of the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO Council), at the Office of Personnel Management during the Bush 43 administration.

"Generally, the bill is an interesting concept," he said in a telephone interview, "but I'm not sure how realistic it is at this point."

Salamone characterized the proposal to freeze federal hiring whenever the government runs a deficit "a difficult prospect, especially given our current budget environment." He also says the bill would prevent the government from hiring at a time when President Obama is asking "good, energetic and smart people to continue joining federal service."

Jackie Simon, public policy director with the American Federation of Government Employees, minced no words in saying, "It essentially prohibits all hiring, even to replace people who retire anytime there's a federal deficit. " Simon believes the bill would create the pretext for the hiring of "even more contractors" even as the White House is working to reduce dependence on vendors by government agencies.

Similar sentiments were voiced by Colleen Kelley, President of the National Treasury Employees Union. In a written statement, Kelley says HR 5348 would "undermine the ability of government employees to serve the American people, and would end up wasting precious government funds."

Salamone doesn't believe the bill has many prospects for success. "It seems to me that given the current political environment, and what the administration is trying to do, and that the bill was introduced by a representative that doesn't sit on the (House Oversight and) Government Reform Committee, I think its a long shot for passage."

The bill has been referred to that House panel for consideration.

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