Senior Biden Official Vows to Repair ‘Damage’ to Federal Workforce
The White House will unveil reforms in the forthcoming president's management agenda, OMB's director of performance management said on Monday.
The White House’s top official on federal personnel policy matters told federal workers Monday that the Biden administration is committed to rebuilding and re-empowering the workforce, although following through on that promise will take time.
Pam Coleman, associate director for performance management at the Office of Management and Budget, spoke at Government Executive Media Group’s "The New Agenda" event on Monday, and she did not mince words about what the new administration found after President Biden took office in January.
“I’m well aware that the task before us is no small task,” she said. “In my less than one month here, I’ve come to learn anecdotally and quantitatively just how systematically the federal workforce has been damaged, disrespected, and demoralized over the last few years. Each week, we seem to uncover even more damage.”
Coleman thanked employees for persevering through government shutdowns, anti-union edicts, an effort to politicize a significant chunk of the workforce by stripping employees of due process rights, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And we discover [each week] the ways in which federal workers did all they could to continue delivering for the American people in the face of that disrespect, for the positive potential of government,” she said. “Ways in which, each day, you and your teams stood up for American families, protected valuable data, and preserved sound policies.”
Coleman also highlighted a number of actions already taken by the Biden administration to improve protections for federal workers, from mandating the wearing of masks on federal property and protecting the work and independence of federal scientists to rescinding a slew of Trump-era executive orders that targeted federal employees and federal unions. More changes to federal personnel policies will be unveiled in the coming months, she said.
“We continue to assess the full extent of the damage from the previous administration’s policies, actions and rhetoric, and are supporting and collaborating with [the Office of Personnel Management] to identify the best strategies to reverse these impacts and rebuild the federal workforce,” Coleman said. “This and much more will be outlined in the president’s forthcoming management agenda.”
Another, albeit more philosophical change, is how Coleman vowed to consider the federal workforce.
“We often default to discussing government in terms of what an agency does, or about the workforce as one unit, as though our government is a faceless monolith,” she said. “[But] government and the workforce are composed of individual people ... doing the work of the people and for the people. You are neighbors, community members, parents, family members. You do work every day that improves the lives of others.”
And, unlike the Trump administration, which issued a hiring freeze for the first several months of its tenure, Coleman said the federal government is now staffing up.
“As this critical work continues with urgency, agencies and departments are hiring and we encourage folks to apply,” she said. “The president has made it clear that the federal government is a place where staff are protected, empowered and respected, and where the opportunity to make a difference is unparalleled.”