Panel considers bill to shrink federal workforce through attrition

Douglas Graham/Newscom
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday plans to mark up a bill (H.R. 3029) that aims to reduce the federal workforce through attrition by 10 percent by 2015.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., the bill's sponsor, estimates the legislation will save $139 billion over the next decade. The measure calls for hiring one federal employee to replace every three workers who retire or leave their job.

H.R. 3029 would make exceptions for certain national security concerns or any event that threatens public health or safety. The attrition policy would stay in effect through Sept. 30, 2014. The proposal also includes a provision that limits procurement on service contracts to supplement the reduced workforce "except in cases in which a cost comparison demonstrates that such contracts would be to the financial advantage of the government."

This is not the first such bill introduced during this Congress. In June, Rep. Darrell Issa, sponsored a measure with the same language along with fellow Republican Reps. Dennis Ross of Florida and Jason Chaffetz of Utah. Mulvaney introduced his bill, which Issa, Chaffetz and Ross are co-sponsoring, in response to results from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's YouCut program. The Virginia Republican created the program to allow the public to vote online or by cellphone for spending cuts they would like to see lawmakers shepherd in Congress. Reducing the federal workforce through attrition was one of the initiatives under consideration on the YouCut website.

Federal employee unions this week sent letters to committee members urging them to vote against the bill. "Arbitrarily reducing the number of federal employees without also reducing the services they provide can't help but lead to wasteful privatization," Beth Moten, legislative and political director at the American Federation of Government Employees, stated in a Nov. 2 letter to Chairman Issa and ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

Reducing the federal workforce through attrition was also a recommendation of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission, created by President Obama and led by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson from Wyoming and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.

During an Oct. 26 hearing of the joint congressional super committee on deficit reduction, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf mentioned the effect a smaller federal workforce could have on government operations. "Having fewer federal workers would probably lower the levels of service that federal agencies provide to the public, unless cuts in the agencies' workforces were accompanied by actions to enhance productivity," he said.

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