Coburn tells OMB to freeze hiring of non-essential workers

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Monday demanded that President Obama’s budget office stop agencies from hiring low-priority employees in order to preserve essential workers in the face of the looming budget sequester.

On Friday, $85 billion in automatic spending cuts are set to go into effect, which the White House warns will hurt air traffic control, airport security, meat inspections and other key government activities.

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Coburn, in a letter to Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeff Zients, wrote Monday that there are 10 “non-essential” job advertisements running on the government’s hiring website, www.usajobs.com. Coburn said freezing hiring for these positions alone would save $1.4 million.

On the list are ads for 10 State Department drivers, a Labor Department receptionist earning up to $81,204 a year, a human resources position at the Department of Agriculture paying up to $179,000 a year and an Air Force museum official making up to $165,300 per year.

“Are any of these positions more important than an air traffic controller, a border patrol officer, a food inspector, a TSA screener, or a civilian supporting our men and women in combat in Afghanistan?” Coburn wrote.

“Instituting such a hiring freeze and re-assigning any of the necessary duties associated with each to current employees will allow federal agencies to adapt to the current fiscal realities without laying off or furloughing civil servants who are performing truly critical or absolutely necessary functions,” he added.

Government departments and agencies have said they have limited flexibility to deal with this week’s budget sequester because the law calls for cuts to all programs and activities. Given the uncharted nature of the sequester, the effectiveness of the hiring freezes Coburn recommends may be more limited than at other times. 

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