The Obstruction to Investing in the Government Workforce


The focus of attention to malign the government worker due to performance and service issues deflect from the real obstruction that impacts the quality of government service. For nearly two decades, there have been demands from the legislative and executive branches concerning the poor condition of the infrastructure in many government agencies.

There have been commissions previously formed to downsize and reinvest savings to accomplish infrastructure improvements. An example of such a commission was the use of the Base Realignment and Closure Commissions (BRACC), utilized in the Department of Defense. The effects of those commissions were movements and decisions that resulted in political vice that took the focus away from the financial savings. The reality is that most commissions resulted in costing more to execute than any significant realized savings returned for reinvestment.  The absence of reinvestment savings has put our agencies in the shape they’re in today. Recent news reports have identified a host of issues concerning buildings, equipment and shortfalls in tools needed to service our agencies and their employees. The lack of attention to improving infrastructure needs for our commands will only result in greater costs as we push off inevitable investments needed in our facilities.

How many of you can identify in your everyday routine that piece of equipment, a needed facility repair, or a major purchase undone due to a lack of funding, or more often than not the dreaded practice of a “continuing resolution?”

The real culprit in the inertia of government is a result of the Congress becoming dependent on the use of a continuing resolution or CR. This practice has been utilized in lieu of the legislature fulfilling its obligation to complete the appropriations and budget for timely management of government agencies. The CR has been used exclusively over the past eight years to fund our government. This process impedes organizations from conducting their business in an orderly, effective manner. It forces agencies to make illogical and hurried decisions in the areas of infrastructure investment. Another resultant impact the CR creates, once a final budget is approved, is a chaotic environment that results in inefficient spending. It should be noted that the use of this type of funding exercise at the federal level impedes funding at the state and local government levels as well.

For a moment, imagine in the execution of your personal budget that you had to freeze, cease, or delay an essential purchase because the bank limited when and how you could spend your money. For government agencies, this practice has been a harsh and excruciating exercise for nearly a decade.

There needs to be a change to the budget process to restore the appropriations and budget to an order of normalcy. The most efficient form of operation for government agencies is to have a clear picture of what funding is available and being able to execute to plan. It is imperative that we as participants in this democracy urge our representatives of our desire to have the budget process restored to its intended purpose. If we allow the practice of continuing resolutions to remain the norm, the result will continue to be chaos that impedes our agencies from being efficient entities.

The facts are clear when we see the stories of crumbling buildings, broken computer systems, glitches in key transportation services, and lagging technology advancement to assist our civil servants in being effective in helping the public. It is vital for each of us to step back and see where we can speak out about this obstruction. It is difficult to imagine that we should expect ideal results if our representatives allow the system that creates budget chaos to remain the tool of budgetary choice.

Darryl Perkinson is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Kristin Markham

Great post! This is such a serious issue and it needs to be addressed. Do you see any changes happening in the near future?

Darryl Perkinson

Kristin: Thanks for your review and comment. It is a serious impediment to an agency being able to meet or exceed customer expectations. Recent events with the budget deal between the Congress and Administration may correct the impact of the dreaded “CR”.