Workforce Wonk

By Alyah Khan

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Advice: Hire more feds to shrink the deficit

Shrinking the size of the federal workforce doesn’t seem like it would actually do much to lessen the nation’s budget problems, but could hiring more feds present a potential solution to the government's money woes?

John Gravois, an editor at Washington Monthly, thinks so. In a lengthy article published in this month's issue, he argues that a targeted increase in federal staffing – as opposed to the workforce cuts called for by GOP members of Congress – would improve government and effectively cap spending.
 
Republicans have introduced legislative proposals to reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent or 15 percent as a way to drive down the deficit, but here’s the catch Gravois points out: the government would still have to provide mandated services, regardless of the number of employees it had to carry them out. And, as in the past, the burdensome workload might spur agencies to hire contractors – ultimately driving up overhead costs.

Arguments about the optimal size of the federal workforce, as we've reported in recent stories, have been going on among lawmakers, labor unions and employees themselves. While some suggest the workforce is growing at an out-of-control pace, the president's 2012 budget estimates a workforce of 2.1 million, roughly the same level as proposed last year and a modest increase over 2010 actual levels. Overall, the federal workforce has shrunk compared to the size of the U.S. population.

Gravois also argues that if Congress and the administration agreed “to lift some of the procedural requirements and redundant reporting demands that are the bane of the average civil servant’s life, it might be possible to fulfill their mission as well or better with fewer people.”

Although he states that reforms like this are unlikely, lawmakers did pass legislation last year -- the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act -- to reduce duplicate government programs.

A Government Accountability Office report released March 1 drove home the importance of implementing the updated law; it identified 34 areas of potential duplication and fragmentation, and 47 other areas where savings may be gotten or revenues increased.

Tell me what you think about Gravois' idea in the comments section below. Can the government do its job better (and cheaper) with more feds?

 

Posted by Alyah Khan on Mar 02, 2011 at 12:20 PM


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