President Bush's reelection will sharpen, and perhaps speed up, the administration's management agenda for the federal workforce, especially in such areas as performance-based pay and competitive sourcing.
Bush's victory also gives a green light to the departments of Defense and Homeland Security -- where nearly half of federal employees work -- to move ahead with overhauls of their pay and personnel systems. Regulations to revamp pay, promotions and labor relations in the two departments will probably be published later this year or in January.
Just as important, the Bush administration goes into the next year with continued Republican control of the Congress, which has been generally supportive of his civil service agenda for Defense and Homeland Security.
"Given the margin of victory at both ends of the avenue, I'd expect even greater emphasis on the president's management agenda," Paul C. Light, a New York University professor and Brookings Institution scholar, said yesterday. "It's going to be a contentious four years. Democrats will have to pick their battles carefully, and outsourcing, federal pay, union rights and personnel reform are almost certainly going to be far down the list of priorities."
James L. Perry, a professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said the election has probably produced a more conservative House and Senate. "You could expect them to explore downsizing the federal government or outsourcing current federal activities at an accelerated pace," he said.
The election results were a bitter defeat for federal labor leaders, who traveled to battleground states to energize union members and turn out the vote for the Democratic contender, John F. Kerry.
Looking to Bush's second term, Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said, "I think they will try to decrease the role of unions in the federal workplace." John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said, "We are going to have a lot of problems."
Kelley and Gage said their unions will strive to work in a cooperative fashion with Bush appointees, reach out to Congress and speak up for more funding for federal programs and agencies.
"We are going to take on issues and fight for the best interests of federal employees on those issues," Gage said.
In addition to running job competitions to determine if some federal jobs can be turned over to the private sector, the president's agenda calls for improvements in the hiring and assignment of personnel; financial management; electronic government; and the linkage of program performance to budgets.
Donald F. Kettl, author of "Team Bush" and a University of Pennsylvania professor, said Bush has staff in the West Wing and the Office of Management and Budget paying attention to his agenda and trying to get Congress to buy into it.
The second term, Kettl said, "does promise to be a contentious time." Bush appointees will be questioning the role and duties of government, and "I expect they will be pushing harder at privatization and contracting."
Light said Bush probably will "argue that more is better when it comes to federal management reform." Referring to the red-yellow-green "management scorecard" used by OMB to grade agency progress in meeting Bush's goals, Light said, "Expect those traffic lights to get more visible."
One of the first clues to what Bush's second term will mean for federal employees should come in his fiscal 2006 budget proposal. Bush will be confronting projections of a large deficit and may turn to his management agenda to leverage agencies for savings, including lower payroll costs.
Bush's efforts, however, will have to pass muster in Congress. In recent months, lawmakers, at the urging of unions, have placed limits on competitive sourcing at some agencies and opted for larger across-the-board raises than proposed by the administration.
Congress also has resisted administration proposals to devote substantial sums to performance-based pay, in part because lawmakers question whether the systems for rating employees are reliable and fair enough to justify converting the federal workforce from the 15-grade General Schedule.
But Kelley predicted Bush appointees in the next presidential term "will try to speed up the dismantling of the GS pay system and moving more agencies off of the civil service rules as we know them today."