The mission of federal employees may have only grown more complex in 2016, but its importance to the populace remains and is spotlighted for Public Service Recognition Week.
The week, which runs May 1-7, offers public-sector employees an acknowledgement and thanks for sacrifices they make for the public good.
Now in its 31st year, the week — which is organized by the Public Employees Roundtable, a group of federal employee unions and associations — puts a spotlight on the importance of the service that public sector workers do for the common good.
"It's great to be a public servant, and I think it is nice, at least once a year that we recognize all of those folks and the great work that they do," said American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox said.
The week comes at a time when federal workers have had to navigate small pay raises and budgets that continue to shrink resources, but Max Stier, president and CEO of The Partnership for Public Service, said
"Public-service workers do a lot of amazing things and the job has never been easy, but it has certainly gotten a lot harder," he said. "The problems are much, much more complicated. They involve, typically, multiple agencies, multiple levels of government and multiple sectors and the resources are going down
"But what hasn't really changed are the rewards of being a public servant. The ability to make a difference, the ability to take on the greatest challenges that we face as a nation."
Some of those challenges have familiar ones of late. Federal employees narrowly averted a second government shutdown in two years last fall and are still cautiously watching a tenuous budget process play out on Capitol Hill.
Federal pay raises for 2016 also remain below 2 percent, while employees remain hopeful that present legislation will bring compensation in line with inflation and help recoup some of their losses after years of pay freezes.
A series of scandals at the VA have also put a damper on the morale of the workforce at a time when the federal government is trying to actively recruit new talent.
Jessica Klement, legislative director for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said that in part because of political denigration in Congress, federal employees often don't get the same respect they used to.
"I think this is different than in it was in the 1960s. You look at Kennedy and, 'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,'" she said. "There was this push for people to serve their country that wasn't necessarily based on military service.
"We all highly value the military service our men and women provide. You rarely hear people speaking ill of our veterans, and it's not the same with public servants for reasons I don't really understand."
Stier said that while so much has changed for federal employees, the mission of public service remains strong.
"The call to service, the reasons for being in government, I think really are the same. There's no bigger stage for really having an impact on America and the globe. There's no place you can do more good than in the federal government," he said.
For more information on Public Service Recognition Week, visit publicservicerecognitionweek.org.