Federal Workers Condemn Trump Job Cut Plans

The two largest unions representing federal workers, the Government Employees (AFGE) and the Treasury Employees (NTEU) are hitting the latest Trump administration government job cut plans.

In so many words, the two unions add, the job cut plans actually would cost the government money both by reducing worker efficiency and by letting OMB shift more work to unaccountable, but more highly paid, outside “contractors.”

Trump’s Office of Management and Budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, unveiled the adminis-tration’s goal in an early-April memo to agency chiefs, telling them to submit their cut plans by the end of June. Implementation is scheduled for fiscal 2019, which starts Oct. 1, 2018.

He set no numerical goals for how many of the 2.2 million federal workers would be let go, and his memo implied that many of the cuts would occur as jobs go unfilled due to attrition.

But Mulvaney also wants agencies to “begin taking actions to achieve near-term workforce reductions and cost savings” even before submitting cut plans for fiscal 2019.

Mulvaney’s memo and his command to agencies to start formulating job cut plans replaces GOP President Donald Trump’s initial executive order, imposing a hiring freeze on all agencies except those handling national security.

The unions pointed out then that the freeze was counterproductive. They’re similarly skeptical of Trump’s and Mulvaney’s latest scheme.

While Mulvaney’s memo contained a good idea about cutting down the “too many layers of management” in federal agencies, much of the rest was another matter, said AFGE President J. David Cox, a retired Veterans Affairs Department psychiatric nurse. Mulvaney’s scheme would lead to hiring more contractors, and his huge cuts specifically at the Environmental Protection Agency would worsen public health, Cox warned.

“AFGE members can tell you that excessive ratios of managers to workers on the front-lines creates operational inefficiency and takes resources away from the direct provision of services to taxpayers.  The government does have too many managers and some of those positions should be converted to jobs that serve the American people,” Cox said.

“But one terrible idea throughout the memorandum is that even more work should be outsourced to costly and unaccountable contractors,” Cox continued. He noted contractors cost the feds $450 billion in fiscal 2016, the last year for which full data is available. That’s more than double the $200 billion the government paid its civilian workers that year.

“Nobody knows precisely what these contractors do, how well they do it, who they’re hiring, or where they’re working. In contrast, the data on federal employees’ jobs, pay, productivity, demographics, and location are completely transparent and widely scrutinized, as  

is appropriate.  Shifting even more government work to these profiteers who operate in the shadows is the opposite of government accountability or fiscal prudence,” Cox said.

And cutting jobs by attrition, without replacing workers, isn’t so hot, either, Cox said. It “may seem like a relatively humane approach, but its operational effect can be devastating.  Agencies must be permitted to make decisions about sourcing and hiring that promote the most efficient means of carrying out their mission as dictated by law and policy.  That means having the ability to replace staff as they retire or leave.” 

Treasury Employees President Tony Reardon made many of those same points.

Mulvaney’s memo “seems to be little more than opening the door to increased contracting-out of agency functions and services. The functions of government need to be performed and when there are not enough federal employees to do the work, agencies simply shift it to unaccountable private-sector contractors,” he said.

Reardon also argued many agencies are already short-staffed, thanks to past budget cuts, sequestration and pay freezes. While he did not say so, some of the largest cuts are at the Treasury’s main agency, the Internal Revenue Service, whose budget has been cut by $1 billion since 2010 – a cut that even Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, calls foolish. NTEU represents the department’s workers.

Overall, cuts are “decimating workforces, driving talented people out of government and placing increasingly impossible workloads on the backs of dedicated employees struggling to get it all done,” he said. “Cuts need to be reversed. Shrinking workforces and increasing contracting out is not a recipe for improving government operations. It is a recipe for disaster.”

“The idea that all or most federal jobs are somehow unnecessary or redundant, or should be producing a profit for politically well-connected contractors has no place in any serious plan for government efficiency,” Cox concluded