Bills at the ready to achieve Trump's workforce goals

man planning layoffs

Late in his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump released a blueprint for the first 100 days of his administration, dubbing it the "Contract with the American Voter." The set of promises includes a pledge to reduce the federal workforce through a hiring freeze on all employees not involved in military, public safety or public health functions.

Curbs on federal hiring and workforce benefits have long been a staple of the Republican Party agenda. The 2016 party platform has several planks that call for measures to make it easier for government executives to discipline and fire problem workers, rein in "extraordinary pension benefits and vacation time wildly out of line with those of the private sector," and requiring all federal employee union activity to be done on personal time and not work time.

Further, the platform calls for a congressional review of federal employee unionization writ large "to examine its effects on the cost, quality and performance of civil service."

It so happens there are a raft of bills fresh from the 114th Congress that could be introduced early in the Trump presidency to accomplish his workforce goals.

Perhaps the most on-the-nose item is the Federal Workforce Reduction Through Attrition Act. The bill from retiring Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) would cap the federal workforce at 90 percent of the total number of federal employees on the books at the end of fiscal 2013. The limits would be achieved by attrition or a freeze on hiring. The bill also calls for a reduction in the procurement of service contracts to make sure the functions of the reduced federal workforce aren't farmed out to contractors. The bill languished in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and only attracted eight cosponsors.

Bill Valdez, president of the Senior Executives Association, said top civil servants are well equipped to know how to trim the size of government, if necessary. Members of the Senior Executive Service "are the ones who know how agencies function, what the critical functions are that you need to fill and which of those -- if the goal is to reduce the overall size of the workforce -- are the ones that are less critical than others."

He also said the size of government -- outside a few agencies with extended hiring authorities such as the departments of Homeland Security, Defense and Veterans Affairs -- has been relatively stable. "Functionally, the federal government has been on a hiring freeze for the past 10 years," Valdez said. It would be new, he added, if the incoming administration embarked on a policy of management by attrition.

The Government Employee Pension Reform Act of 2015 sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) would take a bite out of employee pensions by calculating "average pay" for pension determination over five years rather than three years, as is currently the case.

The Federal Employee Rights Act would put new restrictions on federal employee union activity. It would ban unions from deducting member dues directly from employee paychecks and restrict the use of member dues for activities other than collective bargaining, including presumably political activity. It would also raise the bar for approving unionization to a vote of more than 50 percent of members, not just 50 percent of ballots cast. The bill attracted 41 cosponsors.

In a statement on the Trump victory, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. did not directly address any looming workforce cuts or new union rules.

"As public servants, federal employees work for the American people and will continue to carry out the missions of their agencies under the Constitution and law," Cox said. "AFGE will continue to fight for workers' rights and for the programs and services government employees deliver for the American people. That never changes no matter who sits in the White House."

Other bills that could be dusted off include measures to put feds who are under investigation for malfeasance on unpaid leave if warranted by the severity of the charge and make it easier to cut the pay and reclassify members of the Senior Executive Service. One bill that nearly passed the House would make it a firing offense for a federal employee to willfully understate his or her federal tax liability or have seriously delinquent tax debt.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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