Federal workforce would share deficit-reduction pain in various ways

By Joe Davidson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 1, 2010; 10:40 PM

The federal workforce would take a hit, along with many other parts of government, under a plan released Wednesday by a presidential commission that's trying to get the nation's finances in order.

Nothing would be spared: pay, staff size, health insurance benefits, even retiree programs.

Well, almost nothing. Contractors, who can be considered part of the federal workforce broadly defined, are untouched in the report. That's a major change from the panel's draft document.

Otherwise, workforce proposals in "The Moment of Truth: Report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform" closely track key points of the draft released last month by the co-chairmen, Alan K. Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, a Clinton administration White House chief of staff.

"Al and I are not going to wimp out," Bowles told a commission meeting. "It's go big or go home."

Many federal employees probably wish the panel had gone home. Even if the report is not adopted by the full commission, the recommendations are just the latest indication of the significantly more constrained atmosphere surrounding the federal workplace. That includes the two-year federal pay freeze President Obama proposed this week.

A vote on the commission's report, originally scheduled for Wednesday, was moved to Friday.

Like the November document, the report released Wednesday would impose a three-year freeze on federal workers, including Defense Department civilians, and cut the federal workforce through attrition by 10 percent or about 200,000 positions.

First the report's soft soap: "Out of duty and patriotism, hardworking federal employees provide a great service to this country."

Then reality: "But in a time of budget shortfalls, all levels of government must trim back."

Estimated savings: $20.4 billion in 2015.

Average pay for federal workers is about $74,000 a year, the Office of Personnel Management says. Average total compensation is about $95,400, of which benefits account for about 29 percent.

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