The Hiring Surges in Biden's 2023 Budget Proposal
Just one major agency is proposing a cut to its workforce.
The Biden administration is planning to add a total of 82,000 federal employees to agency rolls in fiscal 2023, a 3.6% increase that would bring the civil service to its highest total since 1969.
Nearly every federal agency would receive a funding boost in President Biden’s fiscal 2023 budget, and all but one major agency is anticipating adding staff as a result. Much of the hiring is aimed at making up for losses sustained during Obama-era budget caps and Trump-era targeted reductions, though some agencies are looking to address new concerns and priorities.
Here is a look at every agency’s hiring plans and some detailed explanations for some of the most significant initiatives.
- Labor Department: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration plans to grow its workforce by about 27%, while the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs proposed a 50% staffing surge. The Wage and Hour division is also anticipating a significant increase. The Biden administration proposed $109 million for OSHA, saying staff losses there have "left workers less safe on the job" and the new hires would help rebuild rulemaking and enforcement capacity, expand whistleblower protections and boost outreach and compliance assistance. Labor said its contracting compliance office is looking to staff up to cover a growing number of contractors in its purview, including from the recent infrastructure law, and to resolve systemic discrimination cases.
- Interior Department: The White House bemoaned that Interior hit a 10-year low in its workforce at the end of 2020. Its new proposed funding would allow the department to “rebuild core functions and capabilities,” including at the U.S. Geological Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management. Interior is looking to hire 5,000 employees in fiscal 2023, promising to hire a diverse workforce and pledging $2.3 million to improve its human capital and recruiting initiatives. Part of the hiring will go toward Interior’s firefighting efforts, with the department looking to grow its prevention and response efforts by 38%. It noted it is still looking to rebuild its headquarters staff in Washington, after it reversed a Trump administration effort to shift those positions to Colorado.
- Agriculture Department: The Forest Service is looking to grow its firefighter workforce by 3,200 employees and its overall staff by 7,000 workers. The Agriculture Department is looking to grow its workforce outside the Forest Service as well, and the budget proposed it add more employees than almost any agency. The plan decried and vowed to reverse staffing cuts at USDA's core offices. The Food Safety and Inspection Service requested a 12.6% funding boost, saying more inspectors and public health veterinarians would create more flexibility that allows meat and poultry producers to better respond to demand. Rural Development proposed adding 600 employees, saying it has taken on new responsibilities and will not be able to deliver on them without more staff.
- Housing and Urban Development Department: Between 2012 and 2019, HUD lost about 20 percent of its workforce. It has since been slowly replenishing its rolls, but the department said attrition has led to "imbalanced program offices and the loss of expert staff with the knowledge to effectively administer some programs." HUD plans to focus its hiring on skill gaps in disaster mitigation, environmental programming, contracting and cybersecurity.
- Internal Revenue Service: IRS is aiming to grow its workforce by 8%, and by 13% compared to fiscal 2021. Since its early days the Biden administration has lamented longstanding cuts and workforce reductions at the agency. Most of the hires would go to enforcement and taxpayer services. Congress provided a 6% increase and direct hire authority to the agency in the fiscal 2022 spending package, but it is currently employing mandatory overtime and reassignments to address a crisis of backlogged tax returns.
- Environmental Protection Agency: EPA said that “strategically increasing staffing levels across the agency will facilitate and expedite EPA’s work to address air, water, and climate priorities and advance environmental justice.” It plans to hire dozens of employees to promote diversity and equity in its hiring process.
- Veterans Affairs Department: While much of the hiring at VA would go toward shortfalls in its health care workforce, the department plans to hire more claims processors as it recognizes more environmental exposures as service connected. If the proposal is implemented, VA will have grown its workforce by about 75,000 employees since 2018.
- NASA: NASA is proposing an overall budget increase of 11% compared to fiscal 2021, but is still expecting to shed staff. The space agency is increasingly leaning on private sector partners to conduct various missions and said it will “offer targeted buyouts in selected surplus skill areas.”