Budget expert forecasts more financial woes for the federal government

While budget cuts are likely on the horizon for most federal agencies, the work of government employees will become more important, predicts Stan Collender, an expert on the federal budget, said Tuesday at a Government Executive Media Group town hall.

"Your jobs are actually going to become more important; what you do is going to become more needed," Collender said. "You're going to have to be sharper, more ahead of the curve. You're going to have to manage better because there's going to be a lot of pressure on you to do more with less, but the demand will continue to be there for the government to do something."

His remarks followed the release of a survey by the Government Business Council, Government Executive's research arm, which found that 75 percent of government respondents were concerned that budget cuts will erode workplace morale while more than 80 percent expected a future budget decrease that would affect agencies' ability to maintain service.

Collender, a former congressional staffer, warned that the upcoming political and financial future will be hard to predict. He forecasted that the deficit reduction super committee, which must reveal a budget plan by Nov. 23, will fail to reach a sufficient deal.

"I don't know why we call it a super committee, because it's anything but," he said.

If no deal is reached, then President Obama and both parties in Congress likely will submit alternative proposals to prevent sequestration, or automatically triggered reductions, from taking hold, Collender said.

"All next year will be about avoiding a sequester," he said, referring to the sequestration process.

Another budget battle is coming up next week with the continuing resolution passed Oct. 4, which keeps the government funded until Nov. 18. Congress probably will undergo another round of debate and pass another short-term resolution, funding the federal government only until Dec. 31, Collender said.

With 55 percent of the Defense Department's budget spent on payroll, ending the U.S. military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan won't be a cure-all for budget woes, unless the Pentagon were to let go of a large number of troops.

"While some people talked about using that to reduce the deficit, very little of that money would be taken for that or other purposes," he said. "The amount of savings is going to be a lot less than people expect."

Collender expects that in a few years different budgetary issues will come to the forefront and within five years Congress will be dealing with a completely different situation.

One situation that won't change, however, is that government work will remain important, he said.

"The country is going to need you more in the future," Collender said, "You're just going to be needed; you're not going to feel loved."

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