What should a 21st century civil service look like? Not what’s happening to the federal workforce right now: pay cuts, furloughs, shutdowns, testified AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. before a Senate subcommittee on regulatory affairs and federal management on 21st Century Ideas for the 20th Century Federal Civil Service.
“The more often the system penalizes federal workers and tries to solve political and economic problems on their backs, the less likely the government will recruit and retain the qualified and skilled workforce it needs,” Cox said.
Budget policies also put productivity and efficiency at odds within the federal government, Cox said. The Border Patrol rewards managers for cutting costs, even when it means reductions in border security. The Agriculture Department saves $90 million over three years by removing front-line poultry inspectors and speeding up the inspections process, threatening food safety.
Cost concerns also have led to contracting out of government work, even though it’s been proven time and time again that federal workers are more cost effective than contracting out for services, Cox said.
Federal employees have incurred $159 billion in cuts to their compensation since 2011, and Congress passed a resolution last month that, if enacted, would slash an employee’s take-home pay additionally by up to 12%.
“The government that will meet the challenges of the 21st century must grapple with the tension between quality and cost efficiency and on both of those counts, the federal workforce is the right choice,” he said.
Modernizing government also should not mean gutting the existing pay and personnel systems, Cox added. Those systems were designed to ensure employees are treated fairly and equally and are protected from being fired for partisan political reasons.