09.22.2020 1

Now is Ideal Time to Reform Federal Workforce

By Rick Manning

A survey conducted by the American Federation of Government Employees in August found 56 percent of federal employees were still working from home via telework amid the COVID-19 pandemic. If representative of the currently estimated 2.2 million federal civilian workforce, that would mean about 1.2 million federal employees are working it from home right now.

Given the major use of teleworking by the federal government right now, this could provide a major opportunity to consider widespread civil service reform with a focus on addressing personnel hiring, retention and termination.

For example, given the toll the pandemic and related state-led closures have inflicted on the U.S. economy, including many schools still being closed, many employees would like to become part-time employees so they can keep their kids on track with distance learning. Therefore, this could be a good time to consider expanding part-time, job-sharing opportunities in the federal government.

In 1978, Congress passed into law Federal Employees Part-Time Career Employment Act that “Requires the heads of specified Federal agencies to establish and maintain a program for part-time career employment consisting of 16 to 32 hours a week.”

OPM even advertises the law on its website, stating, “The key to achieving family-friendly workplaces in the Federal Government is to make full utilization of all the personnel flexibilities and resources available. As an employer, the Federal Government has long recognized the value of part-time employment. Legislation encouraging part-time employment for Federal employees has been in place since 1978.”

Yet, 42 years later, the law has hardly been implemented and fully utilized. Currently, according to the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) FedScope, as of Dec. 2019, there were just 105,000 part-time workers, and just 291 job-sharers in the entire federal workforce.

The Trump administration and OPM should consider expanding that number greatly, in the process meeting the needs of the modern workforce, while reducing overall personnel costs for taxpayers. If this was a good idea in the late 1970s, it’s great idea today.

In addition, OPM, in conjunction with all departments and agencies, should be reevaluating all current positions to ensure that they are still needed to perform federal government functions. This will allow the departments and agencies to modernize by removing antiquated positions, and to reorganize to be leaner and more efficient.

In the process the government should complete performance evaluations for existing personnel to identify non-productive dead weight in the system.

Finally, Congress should consider passing the MERIT Act by U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) that would expedite the removal of poorly performing federal workers, who are otherwise lazy, incompetent, or recalcitrant by applying the same procedures that were put into place in 2018 to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs across the entire civil service.

Right now, it can take years just to terminate an employee with cause. In a modern workplace, that is simply ludicrous.

With the federal government still working from home to a large extent, this is the perfect time to reevaluate the current structure of the civil service with an eye to modernization, flexibility and increasing efficiency. And President Donald Trump, with his prior experience as a private employer, is just the right person to lead that effort.

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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