"The federal government is in the midst of a serious personnel crisis," Harnage will state, "and the use of 'flexibilities' in federal personnel systems will not solve the problems that comprise this crisis. In fact," he adds, "exercise of some of the flexibilities which have been proposed are more likely to exacerbate current and future problems than to solve them."
Harnage will label the crisis "self-inflicted"--the result of more than a decade of downsizing, privatization, contracting out and failure to match either private or public sector standards for pay and benefits. He emphasizes that arbitrary personnel ceilings are a crucial component of the federal government's human capital crisis. "No private business or organization would pluck an arbitrary number from the air and adhere rigidly to it--work force planning, mission and cost be damned. Yet that is precisely what the federal government has done," Harnage states.
"As a result agencies have no choice but to contract out the work, paying whatever contractors demand, even if the work can be done more cheaply and more effectively by federal employees and even if the work should be done by federal employees, for reasons of national security, public interest or public safety," Harnage adds.
Harnage will question whether the government faces a human capital crisis in its "shadow" private contractor work force and if not, why. "Answering these questions would take us a long way toward understanding the solution to the government's human capital problems with its "on the books" work force," he states. He points out that contractors are not bound by personnel ceilings or inadequate pay and compensation systems, yet their contracts are paid from the same source as federal agencies--the tax payers.
"We must rebuild the federal service," Harnage concludes. "To do this, a new generation of federal employees must be hired, trained and provided with career opportunities that measure up to alternatives in both the private and public sectors. Enhanced flexibilities can play a construct role, but they must include enhancements in collective bargaining rights for unionized federal employees in order not to make today's enormous problems even worse."