Key Senator warns against workforce cuts

The chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee says the Bush administration's plan to cut federal managers should be based on an analysis of agency workforce needs. In a March 16 letter to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and ranking member Kent Conrad, D-N.D. obtained by, Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., commented on the range of federal management proposals in the President's budget blueprint. While Thompson lauded the administration's plans to promote e-government projects and tighten federal computer security, he also emphasized that any workforce cuts should be guided by strategic planning. In a Feb. 14 memo, Office of Management and Budget Director Mitchell Daniels directed agencies to include goals for cutting layers of middle management in their annual performance plans due to Congress on April 3. The Clinton administration's attempts to downsize government show the consequences of cutting the federal workforce without strategic planning, Thompson said. "The reductions were designed to reach arbitrary staffing levels that largely ignored agency workforce needs," Thompson wrote. "This left many agencies with a shortage of the right people needed to perform the right jobs." The senator added that federal hiring should be stepped up in some areas. "I urge the Budget Committee to recognize in its plans that workforce restructuring should be done pursuant to a strategic plan and that there are areas where increases in human resources are necessary," wrote Thompson. Thompson also said that federal compensation must be reviewed so the government is better able to attract qualified workers. While he did not explicitly endorse pay parity for military service members and civil servants, Thompson noted that federal and military employees have received the same pay hike in 17 out of the past 20 years. Last week, the House Budget Committee voted for civilian-military pay parity in the fiscal 2002 budget resolution. "The [Governmental Affairs] Committee urges that adequate budgetary resources be devoted to ensure that the federal government will be competitive in recruiting and retaining a quality workforce," wrote Thompson. Thompson endorsed administration proposals for biennial budgeting, expansion of the use of performance-based contracts and improved financial management. Thompson did not call for increased funding to support the administration's proposed e-government fund. Last week, Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., the ranking Democrat on the Governmental Affairs Committee, urged the administration to beef up its initial $10 million proposal to support new interagency e-government projects.