Senate bill would 'cap and trade' to cut federal employees

A new bill would require agencies to cap the number of full-time employees and then begin reducing those numbers

As Defense Secretary Robert Gates hunts for personnel savings at the Defense Department, one senator has an idea: cap and reduce the number of federal employees.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a bill Aug. 5 that would cap the number of full-time federal employees and then begin reducing those numbers. At a certain point, if an agency wanted to hire a new employee, it would have to get rid of an existing one, according to Hatch's Web site.

Under the Reduce and Cap the Federal Workforce Act (S. 3747), agency leaders would have to determine the number of full-time employees they had on Feb. 16, 2009, the day before the president signed the economic stimulus law. Then they would have to count the number of employees they had three months after Hatch's bill would become law.


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If that number had increased, agency leaders would not be able to hire anyone else as a full-time employee until the total number of employees returned to the Feb. 16 level through attrition, according to the bill.

Once down to that level, agencies cannot hire a new employee unless another employee leaves in any manner.

Gates capped various senior positions in the Defense Department at fiscal 2010 levels. He is also reducing the number of employees as he refashions and closes at least two organizations inside DOD.

Under Hatch’s bill, DOD and the Homeland Security Department would operate under slightly different rules. Officials at those agencies would have to count their full-time employees, but they would not have to reduce that number to the Feb. 16 levels. Nevertheless, the departments would have to offset any new hires by first reducing its workforce accordingly, the bill states.

The measure would also require agencies to disclose their total number of employees and their annual pay rates.

The bill was referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for review.

About the Author

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

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