Lankford Subcommittee Examines Hiring Freeze and Reforms to Improve Federal Workforce

WASHINGTON, DC — The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, under the chairmanship of Senator James Lankford (R-OK), today held a hearing to examine federal workforce reform ideas that could solve workforce challenges. Federal managers and senior executives with extensive experience managing federal civil servants discussed government-wide ideas for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the civil service, and they discussed President Trump’s recent federal government hiring freeze

During the 114th Congress, the Subcommittee identified a number of challenges that federal managers face as they oversee employees and work to achieve their agencies’ missions. The 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) highlights a number of these same challenges while it also reveals areas of strength. Today’s hearing confirmed that the top federal workforce challenges included length of time to fill vacancies, the need to better align pay with employee performance, and general bureaucracy.

“Every day, federal civil servants help protect our communities, support our warfighters, provide essential care for our veterans, and keep our airports running safely and smoothly,” said Lankford. “We are grateful for their diligence, and we are interested in their ideas and concerns. I understand that federal managers are frustrated by an extremely complicated and time consuming hiring process. We operate our federal workforce operations like we did in the 1970’s. The last time Congress accomplished significant government-wide reform was with the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. I believe the time for federal civil service reform is now. Congress can either watch as the Administration deals with the federal workforce through executive actions, or it can find consensus, work with the Administration, and take up the mantle of substantive legislative reform. To start this process, this Subcommittee will hold a series of hearings to discuss a broad number of topics, including hiring, training, compensation, performance management, discipline, and separation—we will invite a wide array of viewpoints.”

Federal hiring continues to be one of the biggest problems for federal agency managers. In 2016, it took an average of 100 days to fill an open position across 24 Chief Financial Officers Act federal agencies. In 2015 it took 90 days.

Notable Comments from Witnesses:

Robert E. Corsi, Jr., Former Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services for the United States Air Force said, “Approximately 1.5 million workers are under the GS system, which has been in place for over 90 years . . . longevity is the driver for within-grade pay increases with no emphasis on increased performance.”

Bill Valdez, President of the Senior Executives Association said, “Authorities to allow individuals to more easily come into and out of government service should also be pursued. The best employees and those with in-demand skills are not waiting 80-100 days for a job offer from the government.”

Renee M. Johnson, National President of the Federal Managers Association said, “Managers must be able to address both misconduct and poor performance, however many managers currently feel it is easier to keep a poor performer and deal with their subpar performance than take the steps to document and convince the agency to remove. A clear, straight-forward process should be available to every manager to remove confusion and frustration from the termination process.”

J. David Cox, Sr., National President for the American Federation of Government Employees said, “Attacks on government employees and the civil service in general may make for good politics, but they make for bad government. AFGE agrees that dealing with the very small number of problem employees is essential to sound public administration. At the same time, we must remember, and acknowledge, that the vast majority of federal employees perform well, and that agency systems and the laws and regulations governing employee performance are well-thought-out.”

CLICK HERE to view the full hearing video and opening statements.