Lawmaker seeks federal hiring freeze

A House lawmaker reintroduced a bill late last week that would freeze hiring governmentwide except at the Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments.

The Federal Workforce Reduction Act would reduce the size of the federal workforce by attrition: only one hire for every two employees who retire or leave service. It also would require agencies to justify their new hires and the administration to disclose all new employees by agency. The president would be able to hire an employee in the interest of national security or in the event of an "extraordinary emergency," according to the bill. The freeze would stay in effect until the federal deficit is resolved, according to the legislation.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., the bill's sponsor, introduced the same legislation last year.

Lummis said the bill "aggressively halts the sprawl of government; forces agency heads to make government more efficient; and helps us get back to a people-centered, not government-centered America." The GOP and the federal deficit commission have called on the Obama administration to reduce the civilian head count by up to 15 percent through attrition.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley called the legislation "misguided," saying, "Rather than address the nation's deficit, this bill would force agencies to rely more heavily on unaccountable and expensive private contractors, resulting in higher costs to taxpayers, poor services and questionable transactions."

The Wyoming Republican introduced the legislation just days before President Obama released his fiscal 2012 budget, which proposes increasing federal employment next year by as many as 15,000 new civilian employees. There are about 2.1 million workers in the federal government.

The budget request proposes that most of the new employees go to security agencies. The bump would come on the heels of a decrease in federal employment this year, meaning that even if lawmakers enacted Obama's proposal, government would still have 12,000 fewer civilian employees in fiscal 2012 than in fiscal 2010.

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