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10 Ways the President’s Fiscal 2019 Budget Affects You

President Donald Trump released his budget proposal for fiscal 2019 on Monday, and there’s plenty in it that will affect the federal workforce.

To help you understand what proposed changes will impact you, we’ve outlined a mix of management and technology issues ranging from pay and benefits to reducing the size of the federal workforce and new IT initiatives that will change the way you work.

One key theme we noticed throughout the budget is modernization. This budget makes clear that the administration will drive government modernization by focusing on the intersection of IT; data, accountability and transparency; and workforce.

Some changes will occur using existing authorities, while others will require legislative actions.

Below we’ve outline 10 takeaways from the budget that you need to know:

Management

1. The administration will announce specific details in March outlining how it will drive reforms at the intersection of IT, data and transparency and the workforce, according to the budget. Key areas of focus include reorganizing the executive branch and reducing the size and cost of government. Technology will be a key driver to enable these changes. Some of the proposed changes so far are eliminating unnecessary political positions, using shared services to improve IT services and reduce costs through economies of scale, realigning offices and personnel, and revamping regional offices.

2. As part of this plan, the administration is also reviewing how it can restructure functions across federal agencies. For example, the Trump administration is reviewing how it can streamline federal statistical functions across multiple agencies.

3. You can expect to see proposed changes in hiring and dismissal procedures, but it isn’t clear when those will roll out. The goal is to empower federal managers with greater flexibility, the budget noted. “Agency managers will be encouraged to restore management prerogatives that have been ceded to federal labor unions and create a new partnership with these entities that maintains the primacy of each agency’s obligation to efficiently and effectively accomplish its public mission.”

Pay and Benefits

4. The budget proposes a pay freeze for federal civilian employees for 2019. It also calls for a slowdown of the frequency of step increases, while increasing performance-based pay for workers in mission-critical areas.

5. “While many agencies plan to reduce FTEs [full-time equivalents], in some cases, the administration seeks to increase the workforce,” according to the budget. The Commerce, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments are among the agencies that would see an increase in FTEs. On the other hand, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposed to see its FTEs slashed by more than 24 percent, according to 2019 budget proposals. (Check out page 68 of the budget’s analytical perspectives for an agency breakdown.

 Note: “At the time the budget was prepared, funding provided for the 2018 annual appropriations bills were operating under a continuing resolution, and FTE estimates reflect this funding. Actual 2018 FTE levels are likely to be different, to account for final appropriations, administrative decisions within agencies and other factors.”

6. In terms of sick leave and paid vacation, the budget proposes combining all leave into one paid time off category. This would reduce total leave days and add a short term disability insurance policy for employees who experience a serious medical situation.

7. Similar to what was proposed in the fiscal 2018 budget, the 2019 budget calls for an increase in employee payments to the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) defined benefit plan. Increased employee annuity contributions would be phased in at a rate of one percent per year. Also, the administration is proposing reducing or eliminating cost of living adjustments for existing and future retirees.

8. The budget includes $50 million for a centrally-managed fund to finance innovative approaches to meeting critical recruitment, retention and re-skilling needs across the government. Here’s how it would work: The President’s Management Council would designate a board of federal officials to manage the fund. The board would review and select from among agency and cross-agency proposals to pilot innovative and cost-effective ways to strengthen the workforce and meet future challenges.

Technology

9. Modernizing aging government systems is a big priority for this administration. The budget includes $210 million next fiscal year for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), which was established by the Modernizing Government Technology Act. Agencies would go before a board to compete for TMF dollars. Agency projects will have to meet key criteria, which will likely include having a high probability of success, a strong team and a substantial impact on mission and citizen service delivery. “The FY 2019 funding will complement any initial seed funding provided in FY 2018, when discretionary appropriations are finalized, and will help grow the revolving fund to a sustained level that will allow the TMF to tackle more complex government-wide IT modernization efforts,” according to the budget. The MGT Act, however, authorized up to $250 million in fiscal 2018 and 2019, for a total of $500 million dedicated to fund the TMF.

10. “As agencies implement new technology and processes, the administration will invest in re-skilling the workforce to meet current needs,” according to the budget. “Employees who perform transactional work that is phased out can shift to working more directly with customers or on more complex and strategic issues.” The budget calls on agencies to take into account the impact of automation and artificial intelligence to streamline compliance and regulatory processes, and online and telephone chat-bots to improve customer service. These tools “may reduce agency personnel needs.”

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