Hiring reform: a view from the Hill

Wednesday - 5/12/2010, 10:58am EDT

Rep. Gerry Connolly

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

A new Presidential mandate will make sweeping changes to federal hiring practices.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told Federal News Radio he agrees with the change.

I think we had to do something. We're facing a great challenge in the demographic imperative in the federal workforce. Almost 47% of the entire federal workforce will be eligible for retirement sometime over the next decade or so, largely because the baby boomers are getting ready to retire. And we've got to be able to recruit and retain the workforce of the future.

Connolly said taking up to 200 days to be hired means we currenly have a system "that's almost designed to disincentivize people from seeking public service in the federal government."

"We've got good strong leadership at both OPM and OMB," said Connolly. "I think they took the bull by the horns here and I applaud them for doing so and I certainly applaud the President for his executive order. I think it will make a big difference."

Reducing the hiring time is important, said Connolly, but so is eliminating the essay portion of the application. "It's a quaint, old habit," said Connolly, "that maybe was appropriate in the mid-20th century but its long, long outlived it usefulness. It's something that just doesn't work in the 21st century and especially in a competitive labor market."

As for the immediate future in the House, Connolly said passing the FY 2011 budget will be "problematic."

Given the red ink of the budget in the middle of this recession and the very dire fiscal situation we inherited when we all came into office in January of '09, trying to put together a budget that finances the federal government adequately but also addresses that long term deficit problem is a great challenge.

Since spending can't be raised, Connolly said "obviously we have to address entitlements. I think just looking at a freeze or even reductions in discretionary spending is helpful, but it's not going to get you the money you need. We're going to have to be willing to look at everything, put everything on the table..."

But, said Connolly, "right now in a very highly charged political environment, I think that's going to be very difficult to achieve this year."