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The State of the Federal Workforce - Plus the 7 Gov Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

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But up front: The state of the federal workforce.

During Public Service Recognition Week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce held a hearing looking at the status of the federal workforce. The hearing called upon a number of groups that focus on the public workforce including the director of the Office of Personnel Management, the Partnership for Public Service, the Senior Executive Association and union leaders.

And, of course, it comes after one of the toughest years for public servants with furloughs, sequestions and shutdowns -- OH MY! Not to mention the budget fights that have become the norm for public service workers… pay freezes… reduced workforces… and, of course, ‘do more with less.’ All of that has taken a toll on morale with the Partnership’s Best Agency to Work Force index plummeting last year -- and retirements spiking.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta sought to put the best spin on it as possible [PDF of her testimony]:

“Despite all the challenges, there is cause for optimism. Survey results show that federal employees continue to be committed to serving the American people. Over 90 percent of respondents reported that the work they do is important; federal employees report that they constantly look for ways to better do their jobs; and federal employees report a willingness to put in the extra effort to get the job done. Employees are also happy with workplace flexibilities such as telework, leave, and alternative work schedules that help them be more productive by balancing their work and family needs. Harnessing this enthusiasm to encourage employee satisfaction and engagement is a top priority at OPM, and we know that an engaged workforce is a more productive workforce.”

Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executive Association, was more blunt [PDF of her testimony]:

“If a private company treated its senior executives the way federal career senior executives are treated (or frankly, the way the federal workforce as a whole has been treated), the company would fail.”

How would you describe the state of the federal workforce in 2014?

My general take is that it isn’t the worst of times -- and there is relief that we seemed to have moved beyond those dark days. But it is far from the best of times. And I get a real sense that people are concerned that the nightmare that was 2013 could reappear at any time. Beyond that, feds continue to feel like victims of bureaucracy rather than purveyors of it.

What is your sense of the federal workforce these days? And what would you do to change the situation?

The SEVEN stories that impact your life:

  1. GovExec: EPA to Collect Retention Bonuses it Mistakenly Paid to Employees - “The Environmental Protection Agency gave retention bonuses to employees without verifying the payments were necessary, according to an audit, and the employees may soon have to give back the awards.”

  2. Military Times: DoD Makes last-ditch plea for compensation cuts in 2015 - “The Pentagon brass made a last stand Tuesday in the months-long battle for military compensation reform, imploring senators to back plans to trim troops’ pay raises and benefits in the fiscal 2015 budget.”

  3. Federal News Radio: Data to drive 2016 discretionary budget decisions - “Agencies will go down two roads as they put together their fiscal 2016 budget requests this summer. The first is deciding how to reduce discretionary spending by 2 percent over their 2015 levels. The second is deciding which discretionary programs deserve a 5 percent increase. The Office of Management and Budget asked for both options as part of its annual budget guidance delivered to agencies May 5.”

  4. Washington Post: Hearing: Inspector General to accuse EPA of blocking investigations - “House lawmakers are examining whether a little-known department within the Environmental Protection Agency is blocking independent oversight efforts, as a federal investigator alleged in testimony he prepared for a hearing on Wednesday. EPA Assistant Inspector General Patrick Sullivan said in remarks for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the EPA’s Office of Homeland Security, run by the office of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, is acting as a ‘rogue law enforcement organization.’”

  5. Federal Times: Agencies continue to struggle with low morale - “Sequestration, furloughs and tight budgets have taken a toll on federal employee morale, and federal employee groups say that agencies’ efforts to make things better are not enough for a workforce hammered by benefit cuts. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said at a May 6 hearing of the Senate subcommittee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce that many politicians are using federal workers as a punching bag during budget negotiations.”

  6. NextGov: Pentagon Smartphone Plan is Off to a Slow Start - “Three months after the Defense Department declared as operational its system for managing commercial off-the-shelf smartphones and tablets handling unclassified data, only about 2,000 devices are actually using the capability, the program’s manager said May 5. That’s a far cry from the 100,000 devices the Pentagon wants to have by the end of September.”

  7. GovExec: Ex-Employees Want “Incompetent” Forest Service Executive Fired - “A group of public environmental employees wants the director of the Forest Service’s Law Enforcement and Investigations program fired for ‘incompetence’ and for leading a program ‘in a state of crisis.’ The Forest Service so far does not appear to agree.”

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