Coburn questions continued hiring with furloughs pending

March 7, 2013

The top Republican on the Senate’s government oversight committee is questioning why agencies are continuing to hire when existing employees are facing unpaid furloughs, saying that “the average new hire equates to a one week furlough for 52 current government employees.”

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Associated Press

In a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said that on Monday, “the first business day after sequestration, there were 606 new federal jobs posted on usajobs.com,” the government’s central recruiting site.

“While some of these positions may be essential to the mission of the agency, others plainly are not,” he wrote, naming newly advertised positions for social media management, recreation aides, law librarians and public affairs specialists.

Coburn, the ranking minority member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, earlier had urged the administration to freeze hiring for certain positions in order to shield more essential jobs being targeted for sequestration savings.

In guidance issued last week just before sequestration started, OMB told agencies to apply “increased scrutiny” to hiring and other personnel-related spending including travel, training and awards. However, it did not order a government-wide hiring freeze.

Several agencies have said they do not expect to put employees on unpaid furloughs, although the largest, the Defense Department, has warned its employees of up to 22 days spread out from April through September. DoD has imposed a general hiring freeze, as have some other agencies.

In response to Coburn’s latest letter, an administration official who asked not to be named said in an e-mail to Federal Eye:  “As Senator Coburn notes, last week OMB issued guidance instructing agencies to apply increased scrutiny to areas such as new hiring, and to ensure that such actions are only taken when vital to carrying out the agency’s mission under sequestration. Due to the tight budget pressure they have been under, some Federal agencies have already had a hiring freeze in place for some time. And most of the Department of Defense has been under a civilian hiring freeze for a few weeks now in anticipation of the sequester.”

“If the sequester is not stopped, in the weeks ahead, many more agencies are likely to implement such freezes across the board or in selected areas, as they begin to implement their sequester operating plans,” the official said in the e-mail. “But it is important to recognize that a hiring freeze provides only limited savings and is not enough. We need meaningful, balanced deficit reduction, as the President has proposed.”

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