Report outlines ways to improve the federal workforce

The next President must take quick action to address a "human capital crisis" in the federal government, warned Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, in a report by the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia released Monday. "More than half the federal workforce-900,000 employees-will be eligible to leave [retire] in just 4 years," said Voinovich at a press conference announcing the report's release. The report, "Report to the President: The Crisis in Human Capital," makes several recommendations to the incoming President on how to improve federal human capital management. Voinovich is chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia, which has held numerous hearings over the past year on federal management challenges. Voinovich and Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., who also spoke at the press conference, faulted poor planning during the downsizing of the 1990s and a lack of leadership from the executive branch for the impending employee shortfall. "We have not had leadership from the top of the [Office of Management and Budget]. There has been no 'M' in OMB," said Thompson. The report finds that shortages in the federal workforce are compounded by agencies' inability to compete with the private sector for talented workers and an insufficient commitment to training. "NASA's Inspector General testified that she constantly loses qualified candidates to the private sector because it takes an average of four to six months for candidates to navigate the federal hiring process," Voinovich said. The report identifies numerous ways for the next President to reform and rejuvenate the federal workforce:
  • Agencies should have limited "direct" or "on-the-spot" hiring authority for information technology positions and outstanding applicants.
  • Training budgets should be centralized and given their own line item in agency budgets.
  • Agencies should have greater flexibility to experiment with broad-banding payment systems.
Voinovich urged the next President to use the transition to evaluate the management skills of potential appointees. Specifically, he suggested that the next President distribute a management questionnaire prepared by the General Accounting Office to all potential appointees.

The senators' comments were echoed by U.S. Comptroller General David Walker. Walker said human capital issues would likely be included in GAO's report on major management and program risks throughout the government, which is due out next month. Voinovich said his report will be made available to transition advisors to Texas Gov. George W. Bush, but will not be delivered to the transition team of Vice President Al Gore. "In our mind, Governor Bush has met the threshold for a successful presidential candidate under the [1963] Presidential Transition Act," said Voinovich spokesman Scott Milburn. The human capital crisis did not necessitate adding jobs to the federal workforce, Voinovich said. "For hiring new people, the issue shouldn't be how to bring in many [new] people; the issue should be getting the right people to get the job done."

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