White House notes federal employee compensation hasn’t kept pace with rising education levels or the private sector.
Federal employment would increase by 14,000 jobs under President Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal.
The departments of Treasury and Veterans Affairs would net the largest staff increases, with an additional 7,400 and 2,200 employees, respectively. Obama would boost the Securities and Exchange Commission rolls by the largest percentage of any agency, up 12 percent to 4,700 total workers.
The Defense Department would shed the most employees under the proposal, cutting 6,300 civilian workers as part of a previously outlined plan to shrink the Pentagon’s footprint in the post-war era. Other potential losers include the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and the General Services Administration, which would decrease their respective workforces by 1.3 percent, 1.7 percent and 3.2 percent under Obama’s recommendation.
The total number of federal employees -- including military personnel and U.S. Postal Service employees -- will actually shrink under the president’s proposed budget. Obama would cut 2,400 USPS jobs and slash uniformed military personnel by 92,000, meaning the total number of feds would decrease by more than 80,000 employees -- a 2 percent decrease.
The White House praised the federal workforce in additional budget documents released Monday, but decried what it called an “outdated personnel system.” The administration called for more flexibility in federal hiring, pitching an alternative system that allows the government to “compete for and reward top talent.”
The documents demonstrated the federal workforce shrinking relative to the private sector over the last 40 years, and illustrated how federal employees have generally become better educated in recent decades. The White House noted the higher education levels should have corresponded to higher compensation relative to the private sector, but this has not happened.
The administration shouldered some of the blame for this trend, noting earnings for new federal employees has dropped by 10 percent relative to the private sector since Obama took office in 2009. The White House said it hoped the 1 percent pay raise feds received in 2014, as well as the proposed 1 percent raise for 2015, would help alleviate what has been a rough stretch for the workforce.
“The last few years have been challenging for the federal workforce,” the administration wrote in the budget documents. “Three years of a federal pay freeze, harmful sequester cuts, a 16-day shutdown of government, and a challenging political climate have made it increasingly difficult to deliver on agency missions. Yet, federal employees continue to persevere, continuing to serve the American people with passion, professionalism, and skill.”
Obama called for agencies to use resources like the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to adopt a more data-driven approach in improving employee morale and engagement. As outlined in his original budget proposal last week, he also pledged to reform the hiring process for members of the Senior Executive Service and establish new training initiatives.
In 2014, the administration will “build a stronger SES onboarding program so our leaders can more effectively transition into organizations, hit the ground running and understand the high standards that are expected of them from the beginning.”