Workforce Wonk

By Alyah Khan

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Are bills targeting the federal workforce destined to fail?

Last week, freshman Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) added his name to the list of lawmakers who want to reduce the size of the federal workforce as a way to save money.

Marino introduced his very first bill, the Federal Hiring Freeze Act of 2011, May 5. But will this legislation -- or any of several other bills proposing freezes on hiring or salaries -- ever get anywhere?

The bill would freeze most federal hiring until the director of the Office of Management and Budget “determines that a federal budget deficit no longer exists.”

Marino said the bill calls for a “responsible” freeze on the federal workforce and allows for “common-sense exceptions” during times of war or for law enforcement and national security concerns.

The legislation would affect all federal agencies except for the Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission and federal law enforcement positions. It would pertain to any kind of hiring except for the short-term reassignment of personnel within the same agency, seasonal hiring or transitional positions involving a new presidential administration.

When introducing the bill, Marino cited the nation’s $14 trillion debt and the estimated $1.6 trillion budget deficit. “We cannot allow the federal government to grow at record levels while we ask our business owners and families to be more frugal and to get by with a lot less,” he said.

According to the Office of Personnel Management, the federal government currently employs 2.8 million people.

The majority of feds know all too well that Marino is not the first lawmaker in recent months to target federal hiring as a way to bring down the deficit.

In February, Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) reintroduced the Federal Workforce Reduction Act, which would place a hiring freeze on all federal agencies except the Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments.

Lummis’ bill, which would take effect in fiscal 2012, would require the government to hire only one replacement for every two federal employees who retire or leave the government. (Federal News Radio has compiled a list of active bills that would affect feds here.)

Although there are multiple bills floating around Congress that would affect the workforce, none seem to be making much headway. So, why do lawmakers keep targeting the workforce in their legislation? Are these bills just for show? Is shrinking the size of the federal workforce really a feasible solution to the government’s money troubles?

Posted by Alyah Khan on May 09, 2011 at 12:20 PM


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