Feds already sacrificed to shrink deficit, union says

A federal employee labor union said Aug. 26 the congressional "supercommittee" that is scouring the government for spending cuts should look first to the contractors and the outsourced work that the government relies on before going after federal employees.

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also know as the supercommittee, could find savings by cutting back on functions that agencies perform or otherwise let federal employees do the work contractors are doing, Beth Moten, the legislative and political director of the American Federation for Government Employees, wrote in a letter to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the supercommittee’s co-chairwoman.

The 12-member committee was created as part of the law that raised the nation’s debt ceiling and created a framework for reducing federal spending. Along with Murray, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is co-chairman of the bicameral supercommittee.

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Moten said federal employees have already contributed to the debt reduction. They cannot get raises for two years as it stands now. She also said federal employees are worse off than private-sector employees regarding benefit packages, referencing a Social Security Administration study that found federal employees’ retirement plans lag behind some private-sector employees’ plans.

"They have already done their share," Moten wrote.

Moten asked Murray to consider a cap on contractor pay at $200,000 a year, like federal employees. A company's top executives now can charge the government as much as $700,000.

“If that is good enough for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, then it should be good enough for his department’s contractors,” Moten wrote.

In another area, she said legislators should look at service contracts as a source for cuts.

Agency officials should be forced to get rid of contractors, who are performing a service for an agency, before federal employees. Moten said contractors should go first because of the rationale for service contracts, which is “disposability.”

The union said it didn’t want to go so far as to promote insourcing or advance that agenda. But AFGE wants the supercommittee to avoid privatization. Some state and local government have had to go that route, and the union believes it will hurt them in the long run. Moten reminded Murray of several provisions in law to stifle possible efforts by "pro-privatizers."

In sum, Moten said federal employees should not take the brunt of cuts.

“The federal workforce had no part in creating the budget problems that Congress is trying to address, and undermining their livelihoods should play no part in resolving these problems,” Moten wrote.

About the Author

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


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