Is Congress loyal to federal employees?

The administration’s top procurement policy official has warned senators their loyalty to federal employees will soon be challenged.

The coming demand to reduce federal spending will show whether senators approach the issue thoughtfully or haphazardly, said Dan Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, speaking to Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) in a hearing Sept. 20.

“There are those, who, I think, in a myopic way focus on reducing the size of the federal government and what they really mean is reducing the size of the federal workforce,” Gordon said. "Your vigilance in thinking about, and preserving, the appropriate balance between work done by federal employees and by contractors, I think, will be tested." 

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Gordon testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia Subcommittee. Akaka is the panel's chairman.

Gordon said arbitrary cuts that may happen across government will force agency officials to revert back to a heavy reliance on private-sector companies to help their agencies carry out their missions.

Federal officials would have to hand out work, “in an unjustified and unthoughtful way, to contractors to do work that, upon reflection, the agencies recognize should be done by a federal employee,” he said.

In August, Gordon released a policy letter on the meaning of the term inherently governmental functions, or work that only federal employees should be doing, such as setting federal policy or doing interrogations for the government. The letter gives agency officials the definition of inherently governmental work. It also gives managers tests for deciding whether their employees themselves have the enough knowledge about certain work and are able to oversee a contractor doing jobs that are critical to the agency meeting its mission successfully.

Congress and the Obama administration are going through agencies looking for cuts and savings. The bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction has orders to trim $1.5 trillion from the federal budget during the next decade. Its proposed cuts are due by Nov. 23. President Barack Obama announced his proposals Sept. 19.

About the Author

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

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Reader comments

Tue, Oct 18, 2011

Why not simply cut the C*&^ and go ahead and Contract out every position within the Administrative Branch that is not listed in the Purple Book. Then Congress would only have to worry about their contractual services budget. We all know there and many that would jump at this as the long term profits would be there after the recovery. No one in there right mind would go to work for the Government now anyway so it the best choice for everyone.

Thu, Sep 22, 2011

Reset the FY2012 budget to the FY2006 level - prior to the massive increases by the progrressives, and both the deficit and the debt problems will suddenly become more manageable. Agencies will have to rescope their goals and objectives, but that is what executives and managers should be doing.

Wed, Sep 21, 2011 Mark DC

Congress's first loyalty is to the Constitution. After that comes the American people as a whole and to the states/districts they represent. There's no room for loyalty to unions, companies, big donors, PACs or federal employees. Each Senator and Representative should keep one eye on the Constitution and one on their constituents. Both eyes are thusly accounted for.

Wed, Sep 21, 2011

Cut unnecessary, ineffective, and redundant programs, reduce overlapping authorities, reduce unneeded oversight. Stop the "earmarking" by whatever term is being used today by Congress. The you can adjust the size of the total workforce to the remaining, agreed upon, functions of the government. Managing by Federal FTE count is just plain ignorant. Always has been, always will be.

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