Federal workers' sacrifice would help U.S. debt, deficit panel says

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 10, 2010; 10:49 PM

Federal employees would play a major role in reducing the nation's debt and deficit under a set of draft proposals released Wednesday by the co-chairs of President Obama's deficit commission.

Former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former senator Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) called on Americans to make sacrifices to "make America strong for the long haul."

Federal workers would face a freeze on "federal salaries, bonuses, and other compensation at non-Defense agencies for three years," saving $15.1 billion. Pentagon civilians would take the same hit, for a $5.3 billion savings.

The federal workforce would be cut by 10 percent, about 200,000 people, by hiring only two workers for every three who leave federal service. That would save $13.2 billion.

The response from the National Treasury Employees Union was swift.

"If enacted, the proposals in the draft report offered by the co-chairs of the White House deficit reduction commission would have an unfair and disproportionate impact on the federal employee and retiree community," said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley.

"This is a very heavy load to seek to place on this workforce, both present and past, and there are better ways to spread the responsibility for addressing the nation's deficit issues," Kelley added. "The overall impact of the proposals would be to stretch agency personnel beyond their ability to provide the services Americans want, need and expect."

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association sent a notice to its members Wednesday night on the effect of the proposals. "Most important to federal employees and retirees," the association said, is a proposal to "achieve mandatory savings from civil service retirement" by recalculating retirement payments and requiring higher contributions for pension benefits and health insurance premiums.

The draft plan also says $5.4 billion can be saved in Pentagon contracts by doubling the cuts already planned by Secretary Robert M. Gates. Eliminating 250,000 domestic-agency contractors would save $18.4 billion. And a three-year freeze at 2011 levels on noncombat military pay, an area Congress has been reluctant to touch, would save $9.2 billion.

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