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Federal Eye
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 08/29/2012

GOP targets size, cost of federal workforce

The Republican Party platform has some kind words for federal employees but that praise is outweighed by long-standing GOP criticisms of the size and compensation of the federal workforce and by intentions to shift work to the private sector.

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“The federal workforce bears great responsibility and sometimes wields tremendous power, especially when Congress delegates to it the execution of complicated and far-reaching legislation,” the platform says. “We recognize the dedication of federal workers and the difficulty of their thankless task of implementing poorly drafted or open-ended legislation.”

However, it says the federal government “has become bloated, antiquated and unresponsive to taxpayers” and “it is our intention not only to improve management and better services but also to rethink and restructure government to bring it into the twenty-first century. Government reform requires constant vigilance and effort because government by its nature tends to expand in both size and scope.”

The platform includes a proposal raised numerous times in recent years by congressional Republicans, including by vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, to reduce the workforce by 10 percent by attrition.

The platform also calls for “the adjustment of pay scales and benefits to reflect those of the private sector.” Presidential nominee Mitt Romney argues that federal employees are overcompensated by 30 percent to 40 percent on average, reflecting the conclusions of a study by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Other studies using different methods and data have reached widely varying conclusions. The government’s most recent pay comparison deemed federal employees to be underpaid by 26 percent on average but did not examine the relative value of benefits. A later Congressional Budget Office study found federal employees to be ahead by 2 percent in salary on average but that the cost of their benefits is 48 percent higher on average. A later Government Accountability Office report found that no one approach is definitive.

The platform also includes several other long-running GOP proposals regarding the federal workforce: restructuring pay to better reward “those who dare to innovate, reduce overhead, optimize processes, and expedite paperwork”; tighter enforcement of student loan and tax obligations by employees; and privatizing airport screening “wherever feasible.”

Similarly, it says the self-funding U.S. Postal Service should be restructured to accommodate “the downsizing made inevitable by the advance of Internet communication” and that Congress should explore more privatizing of mail processing.

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By  |  06:00 AM ET, 08/29/2012

 
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