House GOP pushes to slash federal workforce

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has introduced a bill that would require the president to reduce the federal civilian workforce by 10 percent by fiscal year 2015. 

The same reduction was called for in the House-passed 2012 budget resolution. 

The bill aims to ensure that only one worker is hired for every three federal workers who leave government service.

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Issa introduced the bill, H.R. 2114, late Friday along with Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), the head of the Oversight subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the head of its subcommittee on National Security.

The reductions would be made by requiring the president to “take appropriate measures to ensure” that the 10 percent reduction occurs by Sept. 30, 2014. The bill applies to civilian workers in the Defense Department but not to soldiers.

The legislation says the president “shall take appropriate measures” to ensure that only one worker is hired for every three that leave government service “to the extent necessary” to achieve the 10 percent reduction by 2015.

The measure is a more ambitious version of a proposal from the bipartisan recommendations of the president’s fiscal commission. That commission's proposal would have cut the workforce more gradually, by hiring two workers for every three that leave government. That proposal was projected to save $127 billion over 10 years and would reduce the workforce by 10 percent by 2020. 

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The bill contains waivers for the president if he or she determines a “state of war or other national security concern” or if there is an “extraordinary emergency threatening life, health, public safety, property or the environment.”

A second waiver would allow the president to hire additional workers required for a “critical agency mission."

The bill also seeks to prevent agencies from using government contractors to circumvent the hiring limitations, and specifies that new service contracts are allowed only if doing so is to the “financial advantage” of the government.

“Office of Personnel Management projections suggest approximately 400,000 federal employees are currently eligible for retirement. As these workers leave, we cannot let this opportunity to save taxpayer money pass,” Ross said in a statement.

A committee aide said Issa is still looking to introduce a bill that would extend and expand the two-year civilian worker pay freeze introduced by President Obama in December. That freeze applied to cost of living increases but did not freeze step increases within pay grades.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley blasted the Issa bill in a statement.

The bill is a "short-sighted proposal that would only undermine the federal government’s ability to deliver vital services, shift work to more costly, less effective private contractors and endanger public health and safety," she said.

She said the contracting clause is a huge loophole that would allow the government to shift work on to contractors.

"Cutting the federal workforce will have real consequences for the American people including fewer food safety inspections, threats to the security of our retirement savings and investments, less secure borders making us more vulnerable to guns, drugs and terrorists, longer lines at airport security checkpoints and diminished services for veterans, the elderly and the disabled," she added.

Beth Moten, legislative director for the American Federation of Government Employees, said the 10 percent target was "plucked out of thin air." 

"These sorts of across-the-board cuts never work and will result in agencies hiring more contractors to do the work that still has to be done, at a higher cost to taxpayers than leaving the federal employees in place. In fact, that’s exactly what happened during the downsizing initiative in the 1990s, which Congressman Issa himself said he wants to replicate. It didn’t work in the 1990s, and it won’t work now,” she said.

—This story was last updated at 3:43 p.m.