By Tupungato /

Democrats Introduce Slew of Bills to Strengthen Protections for Federal Workforce

Lawmakers are pushing to bolster diversity efforts at national security agencies, require greater transparency ahead of agency relocation efforts, and reauthorize the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a series of bills aimed at improving protections for federal employees and expanding opportunities for those who belong to minority groups to advance in the national security sector.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., introduced the National Security Diversity and Inclusion Workforce Act, which would require all national security agencies to publish regular reports on their diversity and inclusion efforts, as well as encourage those agencies to expand on programs that provide professional development and career advancement opportunities in a more equitable manner.

Agencies subject to the bill’s provisions include the State Department; the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Defense Department; the armed forces; the Homeland Security Department; “each element” of the intelligence community; and components within the Treasury, Justice and Agriculture departments.

“In terms of diversity, the workforce needs improvement,” Connolly said Tuesday at a committee hearing on the federal workforce. “While women comprise 43.3% of the full time career workforce, they comprise only 35.5% of the Senior Executive Service—the leadership ranks of our career workforce. People of color comprise 38.3% of our federal workforce, but they comprise only 22.6% of our SES.”

Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., unveiled legislation Tuesday that would require greater transparency from agencies seeking to relocate their employees, prompted by the Trump administration’s controversial relocations of the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service and National Institutes of Food and Agriculture to Kansas City, as well as the Interior Department’s relocation of the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colo.

The Conducting Oversight to Secure Transparency of Relocations Act would require agencies that propose relocating an office to conduct and publish a cost-benefit analysis of the move before the agency may proceed to implement the plan. The Agriculture Department science agencies and the Bureau of Land Management both saw mass exoduses from their workforces because of the relocations, and the agencies have suffered from lost productivity since their respective moves.

“Federal workers make America work, but over the past four years, they’ve weathered an administration that sought to whittle down the federal government, discredit and politicize their work, and force them from their jobs,” Wexton said. “We have a monumental task ahead of us to revitalize the federal workforce, and that begins with legislation like the COST of Relocations Act. The comprehensive and public cost-benefit analysis required under this legislation would help safeguard the integrity of our federal agencies and assure federal employees that their work is valued, independent and essential to the American people.”

“Relocating federal agencies impacts thousands of lives—from the employees who staff them to the constituents they serve,” Van Hollen said. “When the government makes these decisions, we must ensure the best interests of the American people and the costs to the taxpayer come first—not politics.”

Additionally, Connolly also reintroduced legislation to reauthorize the Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as give the agency additional authority to collect data.

The Merit Systems Protection Board Empowerment Act would renew the agency, which adjudicates appeals of federal employee firings and whistleblower retaliation complaints but has lacked a quorum since 2017, through 2026. And it would grant the agency the authority to survey federal workers and collect data from agencies on federal employment issues.