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In Bush Budget, Homeland Security Issues Drive Employment Growth

By Stephen Barr
Tuesday, February 8, 2005; Page B02

If your job is to chase bad guys and throw them in jail, the president's budget plan has good career news for you -- increased opportunities for promotion and for new assignments.

Employment at the Justice Department in fiscal 2006 would be 18 percent more than it was in 2004, according to the budget plan that President Bush sent Congress yesterday. Employment at the Department of Homeland Security would be 6 percent higher.

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The projected multiyear workforce increases at the two departments reflect, to a large degree, the homeland security priorities of the White House and the Congress. The focus on homeland security, a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, also has pushed up overall federal employment, according to the budget.

Based on budget data, the number of full-time employees would be 8 percent higher in fiscal 2006 than when the president took office. In fiscal 2006, which begins Oct. 1, the executive branch, excluding the Postal Service, would have 1,876,785 employees, the budget projects.

Bush's new budget shows growth in federal employment of 6.9 percent for the 2002 to 2006 period. Most of that growth is taking place at the Transportation Security Administration and other agencies involved in homeland security.

The proposed budget released yesterday shows the Justice Department growing by 18,100 full-time employees between fiscal 2004 and 2006. Most of the staff increase would be at the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Under the budget, the Department of Homeland Security would have 8,500 more employees in fiscal 2006 than it had in 2004. Many of those jobs would go for more Customs and Border Protection officers, Border Patrol agents and TSA screeners. (The budget also requests $53 million for a new Homeland Security personnel system; most of the money would go for technology to replace and consolidate 140 personnel information systems.)

The budget shows the Commerce Department adding 4,400 workers from 2004 to 2006, mostly at the Census Bureau and the Patent and Trademark Office. The Health and Human Services Department, meanwhile, picks up more than 2,800 employees, and the Social Security Administration adds 1,700 employees. Many of them would administer the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, which starts in 2006, the budget says.

HHS also would hire workers for the Indian Health Service, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, according to the budget forecast.

The budget shows the State Department adding more than 600 staff members between fiscal 2004 and 2006. Hiring would be for extra security personnel, consular personnel to handle new visa requirements and employees to serve in Iraq, Sudan and Libya, the budget said.

Some agencies are seeing no increases in their workforces or slight reductions. Between fiscal 2004 and 2006, the budget shows staffing levels decreasing at the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Transportation and Treasury.

Employment growth, of course, requires Congress to provide the money to support increased payrolls and benefits. Congress also may step up hiring in some areas. Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, noted that Congress has authorized adding 2,000 Border Patrol agents in 2006, while the president's budget seeks only 210 extra positions.

Budget tables reflect the overall growth in government, particularly increasing payroll and retirement costs. The budget says executive branch payrolls will require $129.4 billion in fiscal 2006, an 8.9 percent increase from 2004.

Annuity payments for federal retirees are projected to reach $60 billion in fiscal 2006, a 12 percent increase from 2004. Retiree health benefits would cost $8.4 billion in 2006, a jump of 14.7 percent from two years earlier, according to the budget.

Contrary to the concerns of some employee groups, the budget does not propose reductions in retirement or health insurance benefits.

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E-mail: barrs@washpost.com


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