Federal Agencies’ State of the Union is Understaffed

In late January or early February each year, the President of the United States gives a State of the Union address highlighting accomplishments in the past year and priorities for the year ahead. Understanding the state of our union requires understanding the state of federal agencies which serve as the backbone of our government and provide taxpayer services to the American people.  

Despite an increasing workload, most federal agencies saw their workforces reduced during the first year of the Trump administration.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government shed 16,000 employees in 2017. Due to hostility against the workforce, many employees left the government to work in the private sector. Many retired. Combined with a hiring freeze that’s still in effect at many agencies including the Bureau of Prisons and the State Department, and the administration’s intention to leave thousands of positions unfilled, government offices have been hollowed out. The administration’s job-killing agenda has a real-world impact on the American people who rely on important taxpayer services. 

Here are a few examples of the state of our federal agencies: 

  • The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) appears to have been hit the hardest with a loss of 2,320 employees. According to the White House’s 2018 budget proposal, it wanted to reduce the workforce by more than 6,100 positions while increasing the use of dangerous private prisons. BOP just sent out a memo dated Jan. 24, 2018 directing federal prisons to move more inmates to less safe, less secure private prisons, endangering the American people living outside the prison walls while enriching the private prison industry.  
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was one of the prime targets for cuts. In its 2018 budget blueprint, the White House wanted to get rid of 4,000 EPA employees who keep out water and air safe and hold polluters accountable. The agency had 15,408 employees in fiscal 2017. It now has about 14,140. Disheartened by the administration’s position against its own mission of protecting public health, EPA employees are leaving in droves. 
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is still struggling to fill 49,000 vacancies – doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals. It’s hard to recruit these workers to take care of our veterans because of health care and retirement cuts, and politicians’ hostility towards the federal workforce. Letting VA hospitals crumble and not making recruiting a priority are politicians’ back door way to privatize the VA and enrich campaign donors. 
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has lost more than 100 employees, mostly managers at the agency’s 70 field offices. This has become a major problem because enforcement actions against irresponsible employers must be reviewed by managers and if too much time has passed, they can be thrown out. 
  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) has lost more than 1,000 field office staff since the end of fiscal 2016. In a push to get seniors, people with disabilities and other beneficiaries to go online to apply for benefits, SSA has closed more than 60 field offices and 500 mobile offices since 2010. 
  • The Border Patrol is down nearly 2,000 officers from where Congress said they should be at a minimum. Border Patrol officers quit at twice the average across other federal law enforcement agencies. They work in dangerous conditions and for less money than they could earn working for other agencies. 

What's in and out in the Trump White House

To pay for a new law giving corporations and the wealthy massive tax cuts, the administration has warned agencies to brace for even deeper cuts in 2019. It’s set to release its 2019 budget proposal on Feb. 12 with individual agencies’ long-term plans to slash the workforce. The president has so far made good on his campaign promise to “cut so much your head will spin."


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