J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, says the Obama administration's budget-cutting strategy favors contractors over federal workers. (Colin Kelly / Staff)
The Obama administration is favoring contractors over federal workers in its strategy for confronting threatened across-the-board budget cuts, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees charged Wednesday.
While that strategy likely will mean large-scale hiring freezes and furloughs throughout the federal workforce, “service contractors emerge relatively unscathed,” J. David Cox wrote in similar letters to Danny Werfel, acting deputy director and controller at the Office of Management and Budget, and Frederick Vollrath, the Defense Department’s acting assistant secretary for readiness and force management.
“On what grounds can such disparate treatment be justified?” Cox wrote in the letter to Werfel. “To balance the hiring freeze, why isn’t OMB endorsing freezes on new service contracts, exercises of contract options and approvals of contract modifications?”
Representatives of both OMB and DoD did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.
In a Jan. 14 memo, acting OMB chief Jeff Zients told agencies to identify “the most appropriate means to reduce civilian workforce costs where necessary” in planning for the across-the-board cuts, which are scheduled to take effect March 1 unless Congress and the Obama administration agree to reverse or defer them. Among the options outlined by Zients: hiring freezes; furloughs; buyouts and early retirement offers; and layoffs of temporary and term employees. Agencies should also review contracts for cost savings, Zients added, while keeping in mind whether they “advance the core mission of the agency.”
In a Thursday interview, the head of a service contractor trade group said that federal contract spending has fallen by billions of dollars in the last year, with a resulting loss of thousand of jobs.
“The key point is what skills does the government most need to best achieve its mission,” said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council. To arbitrarily target federal workers or contractors, he said, is “counterproductive.”