Daily Dose: Can We Salvage Federal Jobs?

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, often called the “supercommittee,” met for the first time last Thursday. The 12-member committee is tasked with trimming $1.5 trillion from the federal budget over the next 10 years, and they must make that decision by Thanksgiving.

If a decision cannot be made amongst the bipartisan committee, $1.2 trillion in cuts will automatically begin taking effect.

According to an article by the Associated Press, which appeared on the Washington Post’s Federal page,

Before 2009, the deficit had never come close to $1 trillion in a single year. The government last recorded a budget surplus in 2001, when revenues were $127 billion greater than spending. The surpluses were expected to total $5.6 trillion over the next decade.

But instead of that projected surplus, the country now finds itself in a $1.23 trillion deficit as of August. A further rundown and reasoning behind the federal budget crisis is given, and includes blame from both sides of the aisle.

No matter how you align yourself politically, and no matter how the blame is distributed, the fact is that cuts will be made to the federal budget.

But with $1.2 trillion in cuts to be made over the next 10 years by this “supercommittee,” I wonder, are there ways to avoid buyouts or layoffs?

Can we “trim the fat” over the next 10 years without jeopardizing jobs? What would your suggestions be to salvage federal jobs?

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“Daily Dose of the Washington Post” is a blog series created by GovLoop in partnership with The Washington Post. If you see great a story in the Post and want to ask a question around it, please send it to [email protected].

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Profile Photo Dannielle Blumenthal

We are focused on the wrong thing. The issue is do we deliver sufficient value for the money, and if not, how can we change fast enough to make a difference? As long as we chant “save my job” we are showing a focus on ourselves rather than the customer.

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Profile Photo Nateria Dickey

One idea I like is Telework. When I first started researching this it was for work/life wellness in this Cultural Transformation team I am on. So much of our work can be done over the computer and technology is changing the way we do business. Here are the benefits I can see so far;

1. Reduces real estate/lease fees & utility costs
(Employees could work from home if proper setting, shared office space on scheduled office days or cross agency hoteling stations, no need to centralize people just centralize the process.)

2. Reduce lost production and income when natural disaster or pandemic strikes.
(Prime example: Recent DC earthquake, 2010 historic DC snowstorms, thousands were not able to work, had telework been a more viable option in a CO-OP plan agency business would have been able to continue and $100 million a day (abcnews) would not have been lost.

3. Reduce subsidy transit payments.

4. Increase talent pool for hiring.
(Would be able to hire a qualified candidate from anywhere. This would increase the program knowledge and experience at the top levels and provide opportunities for people not looking to re-locate.)

A pilot program at the Patent & Trade Agency was conducted and there was a 2010 Telework Annual Report published. You can find it at http://www.teleworkexchange.com. $19.8 million is the amount this agency has saved so far on real estate costs by embracing telework.

I am not saying it is the only answer, but it could be a viable one to reduce costs & maintain program support to run programs. Really I think every agency, every program could use some review process to eliminate outdated regulations that could be eliminated and would thus reduce time, energy, money, waste. The only way I can see this accomplished is for Government to become more OPEN. I like what the USDA’s ARS agency is doing “Your 2 cents” where employees can post ideas, share best practices and cost saving measures without going through a bureaucratic loop. I like it!

I know this is out of the box for some, but I think we are going to have to look at creative ways reduce budgets while maintaining jobs. Attrition will take care of many job cuts, the real question will be how can we avoid a brain drain? How can we make it work with less, because some/most of those jobs I am afraid will not be replaced and many of those positions leave with 30 plus years of experience.

Nateria

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Profile Photo Julie Chase

Not all gov workers are GS’ who sit at a computer all day. There are thousands of WG’s building ships, planes, working in Supply, repairing gov vehicles and equipment, maintaining gov facilities at military installations. Telework won’t work for them. Contracting out what I believe to be gov work, repair/refit of military hardware should be done by gov workers not contractors. Civil servants are sworn in when they get the job. With a contractor, (with many stories of finding illegals working on gov installations) you never know who you are going to get and they really don’t perform background checks as thoroughly as the fed. Several years ago my organization was under an A-76 study. We won The contractor who bid against us could not provide the service to customers for a sufficient value. You want cut the money, start at the top and work your way down. At my installation there are GS12 as heads for each organization and in the 10 yrs I have been there, it doesn’t go any higher. Somehow we survived. If that happened in DC there would be many GS13’s and above on life support. But knowing the gov well, they will cut all the admins, clerks, lower level GS’.

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Profile Photo Mark Hammer

These sorts of talks tend to happen when the size of the needed deficit reduction provokes panic. The reaction in such circumstances is to look for big cuts and accomplish the deficit reduction quickly. Elimination of positions and programs always comes up immediately but is that the smart way to proceed?

Think about your own budget management. How’d you lose all those savings or disposable income? Maybe you could have brought a sandwich more often instead of buying lunch at work so often. Maybe you could have a shared coffee pot in the kitchen area instead of buying coffee across the street. Maybe you could have paid a little more attention and NOT stained that good shirt necessitating purchase of another. Maybe you don’t need the “deluxe” cable package or caller ID services on your phone. Maybe you could have done with a 128meg video card instead of a 256meg, or polished your own damn shoes. Maybe you could have kept track of when the VISA bill was due and paid it off on time instead of paying it 2 days late and getting more interest piled on.

It goes on and on. You don’t solve your own budget woes by deciding you don’t need one of your children, or will cut out all meat and poultry from your family’s diet this year, or will abandon any and all electrical appliances. It’s the nickels and dimes that got you in this mess, and it is paying attention to the nickels and dimes that will bring you out of it with the least cataclysm.

When you speak to authorities on weight management, they’ll be the first to tell you that crash diets never work. People rebound because the extremeness of the crash diet will invariably set up a consequence that ultimately undermines the diet. The optimum is to aim for realizable and sustainable reductions in food intake and increases in activity. They won’t produce profound instantaneous change, but they will produce lasting change.

Can “supercommittees” provide any productive guidance about how to achieve the little sustainable savings in government costs? I doubt it. They think too broadly and too urgently. You can certainly chop down a field with a scythe, but you’re sure gonna have a dickens of a time cleaning out the dirt from under your fingernails with it.

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