The Biden administration released its vision for the President’s Management Agenda Thursday morning, which placed empowering and expanding the federal workforce at the top of its list of three guiding priorities.
“A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about dignity,” President Joe Biden said in the vision document. “I have made it the policy of the United States to protect, empower and rebuild the career federal workforce.”
That priority involves bringing more people into federal service, particularly early in their career, according to Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Jason Miller, who spoke to the press on a briefing call.
“To do that, the federal government must become a model employer, with high employee engagement, a commitment to respect workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively, and strong systems to hire, retain and develop the people needed to deliver agency missions,” the vision document states.
“That includes having a workforce — at every level — that looks like America. Being a model employer also includes evolving our workplaces and work practices to reflect the needs of our workforce today and tomorrow, including by ensuring that federal employees have a voice in their workplaces through their unions. The people who serve in government are our government’s most important assets.”
According to Miller, 15% of the federal workforce is eligible to retire today, meaning that agencies could lack the human resources necessary to carry out missions as the workforce ages.
In particular, Miller said that the process for determining how applicants are qualified for a position needs reform, as the current process takes too long in a time where “the competition for talent in the labor market is fierce.”
That supports another outlined strategy for prioritizing the workforce by building personnel systems that enable the federal government to be a model employer.
The vision also intends to “make every federal job a good job,” and asks agencies to “closely examine” their compensation packages and pay equity while also providing easy access to union representation.
“Agencies should make it as easy as possible for their employees to communicate with union representatives and, if the employees choose, to join or organize a union,” the guidance states.
“The administration’s philosophy is that federal employee organizing is a good and productive workplace practice that it should facilitate. Managers and supervisors should remain neutral in all organizing campaigns, but also engage actively with their employees’ unions on matters of consequence in the workplace.”
The Biden administration has styled itself as the “most pro-union administration in history,” removing collective bargaining restrictions imposed by the prior Trump administration and requiring all federal agencies to include union information in employee orientations.
In fact, Miller characterized the agenda as “repairing the damage done over time to the federal government.”
The agenda also intends to prioritize a “future of federal work” that allows for telework and remote work environments that use less federal office space.
The General Services Administration has already indicated that it is in the process of evaluating federal office use, particularly for leased space that will be up for renewal in the coming years, to find consolidation and cost saving opportunities. But agencies have yet to offer a concrete view of just how much telework will be available to their workforces post-pandemic and how much office space will be needed.
According to the vision document, more detailed plans for how the Biden administration plans to reform the government writ large will be released in early 2022, with the input of federal employees, citizens, employee unions and agency leaders.
Jessie Bur covers the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees.