Fiscal panel chairs propose three-year civilian pay freeze, hiring slowdown

The chairmen of President Obama's fiscal commission are proposing major cuts in federal agency workforces and budgets, as well as a three-year pay freeze for civilian employees, according to draft documents released on Wednesday.

The documents commission co-chairmen Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff for President Clinton's White House, and Alan Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming, posted on the panel's website outline drastic changes in major policy areas such as cuts in current tax breaks, and tax and Social Security reform. They also contain numerous likely-to-be-controversial details affecting federal agencies and contractors.

In a section labeled "Leading by Example," the co-chairs proposed $200 billion in illustrative savings by 2015, half in domestic spending and half in defense. Recommended cuts included holding level the salaries, bonuses and other compensation at non-defense agencies for three years; decreasing the civilian workforce by 10 percent or 200,000 employees by 2020 by hiring two workers for every three who leave; and capping the number of political appointees at 2,000.

The ideas from the panel's two leaders, however, have by no means achieved the consensus among the 18-member commission needed to force a congressional vote. Federal employee groups that Government Executive contacted could not offer an immediate response.

Other proposals on the domestic side included:

  • Reducing congressional and White House budgets by 15 percent;
  • Eliminating 250,000 nondefense service and staff augmentee contractors. (Under this plan, nondefense federal agencies would require contractors to provide a head count of employees working on government contracts and the specific jobs they are fulfilling. The agencies then would be required to cut the number of contract slots by 250,000, specifically targeting those contractors that provide services and/or augment the civilian federal workforce);
  • Cutting the federal travel budget;
  • Reducing federal printing;
  • Limiting use of federal vehicles; and
  • Requiring veterans below an income threshold who have nonservice-related ailments to pay co-payments at Veterans Administration hospitals.

On the Defense side, the proposals include:

  • Applying overhead savings Defense Secretary Robert Gates has promised to deficit reduction;
  • Freezing federal salaries, bonuses and other compensation for the civilian workforce at Pentagon for three years;
  • Holding noncombat military pay at 2011 levels for three years;
  • Doubling Gates' planned cuts to defense contracting; and
  • Reducing procurement spending by 15 percent, as well as ending procurement of the V-22 Osprey and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.
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