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Federal Eye
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 03/27/2012

House plan envisions partial federal hiring freeze

The budget plan scheduled to reach the House floor Wednesday envisions a partial federal employee hiring freeze under which only one replacement could be hired for every three employees who leave.

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The measure, which cleared the House Budget Committee last week, seeks a 10 percent reduction in the federal workforce by attrition through 2015. “The reforms called for in this budget aim to slow the federal government’s unsustainable growth and reflect the growing frustration of workers across the country at the privileged rules enjoyed by government employees,” said a description released when the plan was first introduced.

A more detailed report posted in advance of Tuesday’s scheduled vote in the House Rules Committee, the last step before floor consideration, states that the government “would be permitted to hire one employee for every three that leave government service.”

“The policy assumed in the budget is one new hire for every three separations government-wide, not agency-by-agency,”a Budget Committee spokesman wrote in an e-mail. He added that the restriction would apply only to civilian federal employees and not to uniformed military personnel.

Executive branch employment is about 2.1 million as measured by work-year equivalents, not counting intelligence agencies whose staff numbers are classified information or the self-funding U.S. Postal Service.

A blog posting last week by Jeffrey Zients, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, argued that a 10 percent reduction in the federal workforce would “make it extraordinarily difficult for government to do the basic business that people rightly expect of it.”

“Evenly allocated cuts would mean deep reductions in the Federal Aviation Administration, leading to the elimination of air traffic control services in parts of the country,” it said. “In 2014, there will be more than 4,500 fewer federal agents at the Department of Justice and the FBI to combat violent crime, pursue financial crimes, help secure the southwest border, and ensure national security, resulting in over 160,000 fewer criminal cases that can be prosecuted over the next decade.”

Zients wrote that other effects would include the closings of hundreds of national parks for parts of the year, fewer workplace and food safety inspections, less enforcement of clean air and clean water laws, and longer waiting times for services such as Social Security and Medicare.

“It is difficult to take seriously complaints about ‘imbalance’ from the White House. Their budget for America’s future never balances,”the Budget Committee spokesman said by e-mail.

The White House’s budget plan released in February showed federal employment levels growing in 2013 by 2,400 employees, about 0.1 percent. It projected increases at the Veterans Affairs department to meet increased demand for veterans’ services; the Department of Homeland Security for airport and border security; the Justice Department for staffing new prisons; and the Treasury Department for increased tax enforcement. That plan further projected a decrease of about 7,500 Defense Department civilian employee jobs, largely offsetting those increases. Employment at most other agencies would be essentially flat.

The House budget measure also assumes that federal salary rates will not increase through 2015 and that employees will contribute more toward their retirement benefits.

The budget “resolution” is not enacted into law, but it does set guidance for other House committees to follow as they write spending bills for the fiscal year that starts in October. The Senate apparently will not take up the House plan nor draft a counterpart, but rather will base its spending bills on last year’s debt ceiling deal.

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By  |  06:00 AM ET, 03/27/2012

 
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