Washington D.C. – Perennial threats to agency funding, persistent staffing shortages and attacks on the federal workforce are impeding the vital scientific research and economic development work of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, NTEU National President Tony Reardon told Congress today.
“The scientists, mathematicians and engineers who work in this office could be earning much larger paychecks elsewhere but chose a career in civil service out of a desire to serve their country,” Reardon said.
Reardon testified before a joint hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, and the Subcommittee on Energy. The hearing was about management and spending challenges within the EERE.
According to the Department of Energy, over 12 years the taxpayer investment at EERE of $20 billion has yielded a net economic impact of $230 billion by supporting research and development that is used in advanced manufacturing, biofuels, modernizing the national power grid, electric cars, solar power and wind energy.
But for three straight years, the administration has proposed cuts of at least 70 percent to the office’s budget. If enacted, the cuts would have crippled the mission, undercut the work in support of private sector growth and investment, and forced layoffs. NTEU and our allies in Congress successfully blocked those cuts every year, but the instability is unsettling for employees.
“EERE exemplifies a hallmark of our country: the willingness to push the envelope of research. The federal employees who work in this office should be commended, not pink-slipped,” Reardon said.
The agency has had some difficulty maintaining staffing levels. EERE is currently operating with only 553 full-time equivalents, down from 710 in January 2017. Reardon said the agency’s efforts to fill vacancies have been slow.
“In addition, the lack of adequate staffing has resulted in fewer site visits to monitor and ensure projects funded by EERE are on track. Employees cannot visit as many places with the higher workload they bear, which also adversely impacts the economic benefit provided by EERE,” Reardon said.
Reardon also testified about the pay gap between federal employees and their private sector counterparts; the frequent attempts to cut retirement benefits and make health insurance more expensive; and the broader threat to employee rights included in the president’s 2018 executive orders.
“Imposing anti-worker policies that eliminate fair and equitable treatment and instead create a culture of fear and mistrust is no way to attract and retain talented workers,” Reardon said.
Finally, NTEU reaffirmed its support for H.R. 1709, the Scientific Integrity Act, to ensure that the work of federal scientists is not subjected to unwarranted political influence.
“Because of the highly skilled nature of work at EERE and the incredible talent of its employees, nothing has the potential to impact morale, recruitment and retention at EERE more than outside, political interference in their fact-based work,” Reardon said.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.