A Look at Two Workforce Reduction Bills

With the November election approaching, the topic of federal workforce reduction looms ever larger. The Republicans unveiled their Platform last Tuesday night (August 28th) and in it asserted their desire to reduce the federal payroll by 10%, to be implemented through attrition. The effort is not new, numerous Republican-sponsored bills were proposed in both the House and Senate last year outlining various proposals for cuts to the federal employment and payroll. Most bills have very remote odds of becoming law but if the Republicans gain a majority of the House and Senate next year it seems likely that legislation will be passed to trim the federal workforce and, ultimately, reduce demand for federal leased office space. To get a sense of what this new legislation could look like here are profiles of two bills representing recent congressional efforts:

H.R. 3029, Reducing the Size of the Federal Government Through Attrition Act
Sponsor: Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC)
Status: Approved by House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

H.R. 3029 requires that the President reduce the number of federal employees 10% within three fiscal years, and that the reduction is maintained thereafter. The Act specifically orders that this reduction is achieved through attrition such that “agencies shall appoint no more than 1 employee for every 3 employees retiring or otherwise separating from Government service”. In the event an agency has not complied with the 10% reduction metric it is prohibited from hiring any new employees.

However, the Act allows the President to waive these requirements with respect to positions in an agency that the President determines are critical to the agency’s performance or mission. The Act also provides for waivers in the case of national emergencies or security concerns. As a result, the Congressional Budget Office report on the impact of this bill assumed that workforce reductions will only apply to a portion of federal employment, resulting in a total employment reduction of 70,000 federal jobs and a savings of $35 billion in the 5-year period following enactment of the legislation.

(Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced an identical sister bill, S. 1611, in the Senate.)

S. 1476, Federal Workforce Reduction and Reform Act
Sponsor: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Status: Referred to Committee

S. 1476 includes provisions similar to H.R. 3029 and S. 1611 but it goes even further. The bill seeks a workforce reduction of 15%, albeit over ten years, and it is careful to require that the same reduction apply to contract employees. Though it provides waivers in the case of national emergencies or security concerns, it does not identify any other exemptions. The bill also seeks to substantially limit travel costs for all agencies except the Department of Defense and it freezes pay and eliminates bonuses through 2014 (through calendar year 2014 for pay and fiscal year 2014 for bonuses).

These are just two examples of workforce reduction bills introduced in Congress, but there have been many introduced since the beginning of last year including H.R. 3662, H.R. 3494, H.R. 3487, H.R. 2114, H.R. 1779, H.R. 657, H.R. 408, H.R. 235, S. 2065 and S. 178.