Little change in priorities for House Oversight Committee

February 5, 2013

The familiar topics of the size of the federal workforce and how well the government compensates its employees will be among the priority items in 2013-2014 for the main House committee overseeing general government operations.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is set to vote today on a work plan for the current Congress that also anticipates further forays into politically charged issues including environmental and financial regulation and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”

Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.), who has clashed with the Obama administration on numerous fronts during his chairmanship, continues to head the committee, which has reorganized its subcommittees for the current Congress. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) now chairs the federal workforce subcommittee, the first stop for most employee-related bills, and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) heads the government operations subcommittee.

“The committee will continue its work to bring more balance to the federal personnel system, and better align worker compensation with the private sector,” says the draft oversight plan. “Performance management will be part of the Committee’s review. The Committee will also look to ensure the size and composition of the federal workforce are driven by critical needs.”

The size of the workforce and comparisons of federal pay and benefits against those of the private sector were issues during last year’s congressional and presidential campaigns. The full House last year approved a plan drawn up by the committee to require that employees pay 5 percent more of their salary toward retirement. The Senate never took up that bill nor a separate House-passed budget outline that also called for cutting the workforce by 10 percent by attrition and continuing the ongoing salary rate freeze through 2015.

Performance management also is a long-running issue; it arose again in a recent report finding that less than a quarter of federal workers believe their agencies deal effectively with poor performers.

The committee also plans another attempt to reform the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service; the Senate last year passed a reform bill but the effort died in the House.

Also planned are continued looks into problems with information technology purchases and improper payments by federal agencies, disposal of excess government property, energy production on federal lands, the implications of the Affordable Care Act, environmental regulation, and numerous other topics — some of which produced sharp partisan clashes in the prior Congress.

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Josh Hicks · February 4, 2013