Washington, D.C – Plans to reorganize the federal government should include ideas from federal employees, many of which were outlined today by National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) National President Tony Reardon during his testimony to a Senate subcommittee.
“NTEU is in favor of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of federal agencies to ensure that they are providing the services that Americans rely upon and that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely,” President Reardon told members of Congress.
“Frontline federal employees and their union representatives are an essential source of ideas and information about the realities of delivering government services to the American people,” he added.
Reardon testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management in a hearing titled, “Expert Views on Office of Management and Budget’s Ongoing Government-wide Reorganization.”
NTEU surveyed union members from all 31 federal agencies where it represents employees about ways to make government more efficient and effective, compiled the data and provided it to agency leaders, along with offers to discuss it in depth. However, few of the agencies responded.
“While we hold no illusions that all of our ideas will be accepted, it is important for agencies, the administration, Congress and the public to understand that when it comes to meeting the public’s expectations for their government, frontline federal employees have much to offer,” Reardon said.
The employee responses were agency-specific, but Reardon said many of them fit into the same general categories: increasing telework; consolidating management layers; hiring more support staff; empowering front-line decision making; and filling existing vacancies. In most cases, the ideas included exact estimates of how much taxpayer money could be saved and how they would benefit the public.
For example, increasing telework at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission would reduce the amount of office space rented and save up to $300,000 a year in transit subsidies. And eliminating one of the four layers of managers at the National Case Assistance Centers in the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in the Social Security Administration would save more than $700,000 annually.
Reardon also testified about NTEU’s concerns that the reorganization effort will increase the outsourcing of government functions to private contractors. He cited the 2006 mandate that the IRS use private collection agents to collect overdue federal tax debt: the government incurred a net loss of $5 million and subjected taxpayers to unwarranted abuse.
“When agencies become so reliant on federal contractors, the in-house capacity of agencies to perform many critical functions is eroded, jeopardizing their ability to accomplish their missions,” Reardon said.
Finally, Reardon said he was worried that agencies were making decisions based solely on proposed budgets that have not been approved by Congress.
“If the administration is planning to make drastic reductions in the workforce without real input from federal employee representatives, and without congressional approval, we fear a real opportunity for change will be wasted along with taxpayer dollars,” Reardon said.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 31 federal agencies and departments.