WASHINGTON – The head of the American Federation of Government Employees today called on the Obama administration to revise drastically its guidance to agencies on planning for “budgetary uncertainties,” because it imposes disproportionate sacrifice on federal employees.
Federal agencies are facing a potential $85 billion cut in budget resources through sequestration unless Congress acts to cancel the cuts before March 1. In addition, current funding for most agencies will run out on March 27, and a new continuing resolution or appropriations bills will have to be enacted.
In a Jan. 14 memo, the Office of Management and Budget advises agencies to consider hiring freezes, unpaid temporary lay-offs, terminating temporary or term employees, and offering incentives for employees to separate or retire. But for contractors? The memo tells the agencies to be “mindful” of how contractors “advance the core mission of the agency,” asking ever so gently to consider whether any cost savings might be achieved.
“OMB needs to tell agencies to be mindful of how federal employees advance the core mission of agencies. The government’s own workforce has already sacrificed $103 billion to deficit reduction while contractors have not been asked to give up a dime,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.
“Contractors are more costly and numerous than federal employees, yet they are merely subjected to the possibility of cuts. Meanwhile, OMB suggests to agencies a whole panoply of actual cuts to the federal workforce.”
To balance the hiring freeze, OMB should impose a freeze on new service contracts, on the exercise of contract options and on the approval of contract modifications. Where penalties associated with contract cancellations are lower than the costs of continuing to pay the balance, contracts should be reviewed for termination.
In addition, OMB has a distinct obligation – morally and legally – to make sure that no work currently performed by federal employees is contracted out if those jobs are left unfilled because of hiring freezes, extended furloughs or vacancies occurring from term and temporary employees being let go. Yet nothing in the OMB guidance warns against the practice.
“OMB shouldn’t allow this sort of shell game to occur, where agencies fire federal employees and then turn around and hire contractors to do their work. Not only is it dishonest, it’s counterproductive if the goal is to save money,” Cox said.