Budget proposes federal workforce boost
Despite Republican and deficit commission calls to gradually reduce the civilian head count by up to 15 percent through attrition, President Obama in his fiscal 2012 budget request proposed increasing federal employment next year, with 70 percent of new workers going 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.
The Homeland Security Department is expected to see the largest boost, adding 8,000 workers in fiscal 2012 to reach nearly 194,000 employees. The Justice and Treasury departments would grow by 4,000 employees and 5,000 employees, respectively, while the U.S. Agriculture Department's size would decline by almost 4,000 workers. The Defense Department's workforce is expected to shrink from 755,000 in fiscal 2011 to 748,000 in fiscal 2012. Defense would have added 7,000 new workers since fiscal 2010, however.
"There are many agencies that are shrinking," Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew told reporters on Monday. "There are a few that are growing. And the growth is in areas for the most part that relate to new activity. For example, implementing financial regulatory reform requires new personnel at the Treasury Department, the [Securities and Exchange Commission] and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. So I think if you [go] agency by agency, you will see that it is not a story of broad-based growth, but in most cases pretty concentrated growth."
The president's budget highlights several ongoing initiatives for recruiting and retaining federal employees that address the challenges of an aging workforce and inadequate methods of hiring and engaging new talent.
For example, efforts will continue on hiring reform, which requires agencies to move to a resume-based system, gives hiring managers more responsibility to recruit and interview candidates, and fills jobs more quickly; an overhaul of programs for students and recent graduates entering government service; and improvements to the security clearance process. The budget includes funding to boost recruitment programs for disabled workers. Obama administration officials also will consider other enhancements to the federal hiring process, such as better interagency cooperation and mentoring for new employees.
In addition, the proposal includes funding for collecting better metrics on a number of workforce initiatives, such as improved capacity for analyzing Federal Employees Health Benefits Program data to lower costs and detect fraud; technology for agencies to track and report progress on disability hiring; tools to evaluate federal telework initiatives; and a public-facing human resources dashboard for information on agency hiring times, employee engagement and retention, diversity and disability data, and veterans' employment initiatives. Beginning in 2012, the Office of Personnel Management also will survey all civilian workers for its Employee Viewpoint Survey, an annual assessment of workers' attitudes toward their jobs.
George A. Warner contributed to this report.