Senator offers advice to avoid furloughs

Sen. Tom Coburn

Rather than force employees to take unpaid time off, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) suggests simply not hiring for some less vital positions.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has eliminated seven jobs in his congressional office, and he is surviving. In a letter sent Feb. 25 to the Obama administration, the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said agencies could manage too by choosing not to fill lower-priority jobs, and using that payroll to avoid furloughing or laying off employees in higher-priority roles.

Coburn even suggested several lower priority jobs agencies should not fill:

• A staff assistant at the Labor Department to answer phones, who could earn as much as $81,204 annually.

• Ten drivers for the State Department, whose pay could go as high as $26.45 per hour.

• A policy coordinator for the Health and Human Services Department to attend and facilitate meetings and coordinate HHS policies. That position's pay could be as much as $81,204 per year.

• A director of the Air Force history and museums policies and programs, to provide guidance of historical matters throughout the department. The director could earn as much as $156,300 per year.

• An analyst for the Marine Corps' legislative affairs office, who could earn $90,000 per year.

• A director for the Government Employee Services Division at the Agriculture Department, who could earn $179,700 per year.

The government, Coburn estimated, could redirect $1.4 million toward more-essential jobs by not filling "the jobs advertised in just these ten vacancy announcements."

Coburn asked: "Are any of these positions more important than an air traffic controller, a border patrol officer, a food inspector, a [Transportation Security Agency] screener, or a civilian supporting our men and women in combat in Afghanistan?"

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Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Wed, Feb 27, 2013

If you dump the person, be ready to dump the job too.

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 Bill

Sen Coburn has long advocated for removing wasteful spending from the budget (look at his Wastebook 2012, Pork Reports, etc.). He hasn't waited until now. He is just pointing out some more examples of non-essential government spending. Where would you prefer congress spend the tax dollars that are taken from you: on non-essential government services that benefit few, on more interest payments on our debt (to China), or elsewhere? There is so much waste in our government budget (google "food stamp water dumping" for one). Time to prioritize.

Tue, Feb 26, 2013

Sen Coburn is under the mistaken understanding that a job announcement will actually mean that someone is selected into the position that is open and that it will occur sometime in the next seven months to actually have an impact on the current year budget. For anyone who has ever applied for or been a hiring supervisor for a civilian position knows, the hiring process is one of the longest and most ardous processes second only to the firing process. It would be highly unlikely that the announced positions would be filled this fiscal year or filled at all. His identified savings are vapor. If the Senator would respectfully focus on his primary mission that his consituents sent him to DC to perform instead of pursuing the want adds - maybe we'd have some sort of budget in place and wouldn't be worried about a "fiscal cliff" at all.

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 Paul

I have to grudgingly agree that this is a reasonable idea, better than what most Republicans have proposed, at least in the short run. They don't need to be removed, just not filled until funding is better. The only problem is that those positions have already been funded in the budget and I don't think the money can be repurposed. Still, kudos for an idea that at least has some thought put in instead of just a slash and burn approach.

Tue, Feb 26, 2013

So he cherry picked 10 jobs not to fill which might save $1.4M that means 10,000 open jobs not to fill to save under $2B and the DoD furloughs are suppose to save more that twice that alone. Does DoD have 20,000 open jobs much less that many non critical ones? I think someone needs to do the math.

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