The Washington Post

House GOP unveils plan to cut federal workforce

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is pushing plans to cut the federal workforce. (Sandy Huffaker)

Three leading House Republicans on Monday unveiled the details of plans to replace every three federal employees that depart with only one new hire, in hopes of trimming the workforce by 10 percent by 2015 and fulfilling a key element of the House GOP’s 2012 budget plans.

The estimated $127.5 billion proposal, unveiled by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and colleagues Dennis Ros s (R-Fla.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), comes after President Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission suggested cutting the federal workforce by 10 percent, an idea adopted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as part of his wide-ranging budget plan.

The legislation introduced Monday lays out how the cuts would occur.

If passed, the legislation would require the Office of Management and Budget to track the size of the federal workforce on a quarterly basis and report to Congress in writing if the number of employees exceeds 90 percent of its size in fiscal 2011. No agency would be permitted to fill job vacancies once the limit was exceeded. Agency employees would be tallied on a full-time equivalent basis, according to the legislation.

The president would be able to permit hiring above the legal limit in cases of war, national security concerns, or other national emergencies, according to the bill.

And in a key concession to federal worker unions concerned that curtailing federal hires would lead to a new wave of government service contracts, the bill would prohibit agencies from signing new service contracts because of the workforce limitations unless cost comparisons demonstrate the government would save money.

Ross, who chairs a House subcommittee on the federal workforce, said government statistics suggest about 400,000 federal workers are eligible for retirement. “As these workers leave, we cannot let this opportunity to save taxpayer money pass,” he said Monday.

But Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, called the plan “a short-sighted proposal that would only undermine the federal government’s ability to deliver vital services.”

In a statement, she said any exemption for new contracts that might save taxpayer funding is “an enormous loophole” that shouldn’t be permitted.

Though the federal government employs more people than it did about 40 years ago, the federal workforce is at its lowest level since then as a percentage of the U.S. population, according to government statistics.

In 2010, federal agencies employed an estimated 2.65 million workers — including Postal Service employees and temporary U.S. Census Bureau hires — providing an estimated 8.4 federal employees for every 1,000 Americans.

In 1970, the government employed 2.94 million people — including census workers — accounting for 14.4 of every 1,000 Americans.

Agree or disagree with the plans? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.


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