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Can America Afford an Underfunded Federal Workforce?

By The Federal Managers Association


Later this week, House and Senate Budget Conferees are expected to approve a budget plan for fiscal year 2016. While financial certainty for the first time since 2009 would allow federal agencies and departments to better prepare how to meet missions and goals, the budget that is poised to be approved would have a drastic negative impact on federal managers as they work to lead the civil service and meet congressionally-mandated missions and responsibilities. Simply put, the budget plan puts America on an unfortunate path by once again targeting federal employees to shoulder a disproportionate burden of deficit reduction.

FMA voiced its concerns about the congressional budget plan for weeks. It includes extreme increases – more than six percent – to retirement contributions for all federal workers, regardless of when they started their service. This is effectively a permanent six percent pay cut, as these workers would see no change to their benefits, but pay more for them. The plan calls for attrition, hiring one person for every three who leave, which begs for inefficiency, delays in services, and ineffectiveness throughout the federal government. It even inexplicably reduces the rate of return on the Thrift Savings Plan G Fund, making it virtually worthless, according the Federal Thrift Investment Board.

If the intent of Congress is to weaken national security, hinder delivery of social security checks and tax returns, and jeopardize America’s way of life, this is the perfect budget to do it. Federal employees will find themselves strapped to meet congressionally-mandated missions and goals as this budget undermines the abilities of its workforce. When the federal government shut down for sixteen days in 2013, America witnessed what happens with a limited government: services were delayed, programs were limited, and agencies were inefficient. As the frontline managers in the federal government whose job it is to provide these services, this is unacceptable.

FMA was optimistic when President Obama offered his FY 16 budget priorities in February 2015. While not perfect, he called for a 1.3 percent pay increase for federal employees, did not include increases to pension contributions, and offered a plan that eliminated sequestration – something that nearly all members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, have said they want. The association was hopeful that Congress would work on a budget that similarly took a good first step toward recognizing the value of civil service and the men and women who perform these jobs.

Recruitment and retention are already problems facing the federal workforce, as the private sector can offer far more in the way of pay and benefits. Morale is waning. The proposals affecting federal workers in the congressional budget plan will only make our jobs as managers even more difficult. Federal employees are no longer capable of “doing more with less;” they are doing “less with less.” These proposals would only further erode the notion of the federal  government as a model employer  that meets the needs of its employees in order to accomplish missions. Too many of the best and the brightest do not consider civil service and this will drive current federal employees into retirement as soon as possible. It is even more troubling because the federal workforce is the largest employer of our nation’s veterans who want to continue to serve their fellow citizens.

The American public deserves a fully-capable, well-treated federal workforce to provide the much needed services across the country that our citizens count on. We need to sit down and have a frank and honest discussion of what we want and expect from our federal government, and fund our missions and priorities, and the people who carry them out, appropriately.

The budget resolution is only the first step in the process, and Congress will need to roll up its sleeves as they work on the appropriations bills that fund the government. FMA will continue to reach out to members on both sides of the aisle and urge them to pass appropriations bills that allow federal managers to accomplish their critical missions with sufficient resources and investment in our country’s greatest assets: its people. 


Celebrating its 100th year, the Federal Managers Association (FMA) is proud of its long tradition of Advocating Excellence in Public Service. For more information on how FMA works to protect your interests and to join our team, please visit www.fedmanagers.org.

Posted in Hear it from FMA

Tags: federal managers, legislation affecting federal employees

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