The format, more narrative than bullet-pointed this time, allowed the president to focus on overarching goals rather than numbers and departments. For what it’s worth, it also made the individual proposals more difficult to parse. (How do I find the section on defense spending, again?)
Among the concepts Obama covered were “A Government of the Future” and “Creating Opportunity and Supporting Working Families.” Both sections contain plans that would affect the federal workforce, which is how we know he wants to emphasize that area.
Let’s take a look at what some of the proposals would do.
Obama would consolidate six federal agencies
The president asked for authority from Congress to consolidate six federal agencies that deal with business and trade, including the Commerce Department, the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Trade and Development Agency.
The White House said the plan would “bring together the core tools to help American businesses compete in the global economy, expand export and create more jobs at home.” It did not say what the new department would be called.
The federal workforce would grow
Obama’s budget would add 34,000 employees to the federal workforce next year. Federal employment, excluding postal staff, would grow by 1.6 percent, for a total of about 2.14 million civilian and military personnel.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and Treasury Department would see some of the biggest gains, bringing in 11,600 employees and 9,400 new hires, respectively. Other agencies would lose workers, including the Defense Department and NASA, both of which would drop about 200 staffers.
Federal workers would receive a raise
Obama asked for a 1.3 percent pay raise for civilian federal workers and military personnel. For the past two years, he recommended smaller 1 percent raises that Congress allowed to take effect.
Public-employee unions have called on the president and Congress to implement a larger 3.8 percent raise, in part to make up for pay freezes that took place from 2011 through 2013 that they claim hindered recruiting, retention and worker morale.
During Obama’s presidency, the average increase has been lower than any time since at least 1970, based on data from a Congressional Research Service report. That would remain true even if Congress approves the 1.3 percent pay increase that Obama proposed for 2016.
Federal-workforce pay raises have varied in size through the years, ranging from nearly 11 percent in 1972 to 1 percent this year.
The federal government would provide paid family leave
Obama last month directed federal agencies to advance six weeks of paid sick leave to any of their employees who need time off to care for new children, regardless of whether the workers have accrued that much sick leave.
The president is now calling on Congress to pass legislation that would provide additional six weeks of paid parental leave for the federal workforce. The new benefit would put the government “on par with leading private sector companies and other industrialized nations,” according to the budget.
The federal pay scale would be overhauled
Obama’s budget describes the federal pay scale, known as the General Schedule, as outdated. It calls for the creation of a commission of lawmakers, labor leaders, agency managers, academics and private-sector representatives to come up with an alternative model.
The White House said the administration wants a “cost-effective system that will allow the government to compete for and reward top talent, incentivize performance and encourage adequate flexibility to family caregivers.”
Performance reviews would measure employee engagement
Employee morale has steadily declined within the federal workforce in recent years. Some experts say the problem is largely due to a lack of employee engagement, which can leave workers feeling disillusioned and less invested in the mission of their agencies.
Obama proposed adding “some aspects of employee engagement” as a measure in the annual performance reviews for federal senior executives. However, the budget warned that “there is no single solution that will guarantee positive results.”