Gang of Six member Sen. Tom Coburn’s deficit reducation proposal unveiled in the Senate Monday would eliminate about one in seven federal jobs, while extending an ongoing pay freeze and making several employee benefits less generous.
President Obama Tuesday afternoon said he was optimistic about the bipartisan panel’s overall efforts.
Coburn (R-Okla.), who left the group then returned, on his own Monday released a 600-page plan that he says would achieve $9 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade. Many proposals have gone nowhere in the difficult debt ceiling debate, but there’s little doubt that any final agreement will include some federal workforce-related proposals.
Coburn’s plan aims to eliminate 300,000 federal jobs over 10 years through attrition and a modified hiring freeze that would allow agencies to fill only two vacancies for every three employees who leave.
His proposal similarly would reduce the number of contractor employees by 15 percent and would require all agencies to produce an annual headcount of how many contractor employees are working on government-funded work. It also would eliminate non-competitive contracts and “cost-plus” contracts in which there is less control over the ultimate price.
Federal workforce cuts and hiring freezes have been sought in other proposals as well, although most have targeted a reduction of 200,000 jobs, about a tenth of the current federal workforce, excluding postal employees.
While federal salary schedules were frozen for 2011 and will be frozen again in 2012 under a law passed last year, Coburn’s proposal would extend the freeze another year and further would deny bonuses, also ideas that have been raised in other deficit-reduction proposals. It also would freeze for five years the locality pay component of raises that normally apply to most employees.
On benefits, proposals include eliminating situations in which federal retirees can return to work for the government and collect both a full annuity and a full paycheck, endingthe right to carry unused sick leave into future years, cutting the amount of annual leave that can be carried forward, and basing retiree cost of living adjustments on a less generous formula.
Federal employee organizations almost certainly would work to oppose such provisions should they be formally considered as legislation.
Coburn also is seeking numerous other cuts in the cost of operating the federal government, including reducing civilian agency travel budgets by 75 percent, reducing the number of limousines owned by federal agencies, and cutting federal spending for fleet travel, printing, advertising, and conferences.
The measure also proposes to consolidate in the Office of Personnel Management the duties of several other agencies, including the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which decides labor-management issues, the Merit Systems Protection Board, which hears appeals of disciplinary actions against employees, the Office of Government Ethics and the portion of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that deals with claims of discrimination filed by federal employees. That in effect would largely reverse a 1978 law that broke apart many of those formerly centralized functions.