Gerry Connolly: Continued attacks on feds could trigger crisis

Recent attacks on federal pay and benefits, coupled with the permeating rhetoric casting the government as bloated and underperforming, could lead to a crisis among federal employees and have a crushing impact on morale, one congressman warns. 

In a Feb. 23 interview with Federal Computer Week, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) discussed the sacrifices the federal workforce has made in times of budget cuts and what’s likely to happen to government employees beyond 2012.

“It is truly unprecedented that Congress has chosen the federal worker as the place for sacrifice,” Connolly said. “We’ve now frozen federal pay for three years in a row, or will have, contributing $90 billion toward the debt. No other group in America has been asked to make a comparable sacrifice.”

The pay roll tax extension bill will require an additional $15 billion from the federal workforce through changes in the pension program, which means the government workforce will “pay more and get less,” Connolly said.

The pending transportation bill would also carve out $40 billion from new and existing federal employees. If the act gets passed, federal workers would see a 300 percent spike in how much they pay toward their pensions, while their benefits get reduced by 40 percent, Connolly said.   

“Three different bills in just the last two weeks, targeting federal employees,” he said. “This is going to have a devastating effect on morale, productivity and our ability to recruit the workforce in the future.”

Connolly serves on the Government Oversight and Reform Committee. He is ranking member of the committee's subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform, and also serves on its subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, US Postal Service [and] Labor Policy.

With the baby boomers retiring in the next decade or so, the public sector is positioning itself to attract new talent -- a challenge itself amid the rising antigovernment sentiments, Connolly said.

“How are we going to recruit a skilled workforce when you’re disparaging public service in general, when you’re negatively characterizing attributes of federal service and the federal worker?” he asked.

When asked to look beyond the lame-duck season for what’s next for government employees, Connolly said the best-case scenario would entail less political rhetoric and an improved fiscal situation with lower unemployment rates.

“If that happens, I think there’s less pressure and at some point the next Congress says, ‘All right, all right you’ve made your point. The economy is improving and we can afford now after three years to throw a bone to the federal workforce.’”

The worst-case scenario, however, would mean that Congress continues “to treat the federal workforce as this pincushion and goes to them for exacting almost punitive savings,” Connolly said.

Watch for more from our exclusive interview with Rep. Gerry Connolly, coming soon.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

Reader comments

Mon, Mar 5, 2012

A note to Gerry Connolly: Continued attacks on the private sector from feds bureaucracy HAS triggered a crisis. That is the main reason this criticism is out there.
Cut out most of the bureaucracy from the rest of our life and business, which his party is mostly responsible for creating, and you will see more respect to the Feds.

Mon, Mar 5, 2012

I have to laugh at the people who say you can not get fired from a Gov job. While I agree that it is harder for non-union type to get fired from the Gov vice Real life jobs, we just canned three engineers for various reasons. One was a fast track new hire (4 years) targeted for GS 13 (GS 13 out here is like a GS 14 or 15 back in DC). It can be done, if the resultant lawsuits do not have a court saying "you can't lay off a gov worker because you misplaced a comma in your paperwork".

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 Virginia

Congress usees Feds as the whipping boys for Congress inability to get the job done, because the fact is, the only people that Congress can bully are federal employees. While there will always a few problem workers (with any organization, Fed or contractor), most Feds are diligent and dedicated workers.

Tue, Feb 28, 2012 dp dc

The Fed workers are not the problem, but the Federal employment system is part of the problem. We need to make it easier to both hire and fire Federal employees. Pay the good ones what they are worth. Across-the-board freezes are politically expedient, but not a way to a solution. We need to review each agency for what it does and how many people it needs. Do we need everything it does? How many people are needed to do the work we want and do it well? Some agencies will need more, some less.

Tue, Feb 28, 2012

You I have to agree with most people out there, we can not get any training unless we do it through the internet. No hands on training going on anymore unless you are upper management and they are doing it so they can make themselves marketable so they can get jobs in the private sector making as much or twice more then what they make here. How do I know that cause it has already happened to us more then once already. You can not blame them but if the bottom of the barrel do not get the hands on training that can help us learn and make this agencies better, of course we have to look somewhere else before we get passed by and our skills become lacking to say the least.

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