President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget anticipates a more than 50,000 full-time-equivalent employee increase to the federal payrolls next year, as part of concerted efforts to attract young and expert workers to federal service.
The largest portion of that increase will go to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is anticipated to see a 19,100 employee increase over the number of employees on the books for 2021.
The Department of Labor is also expected to see a 13.5 percent increase in its workforce, with 2,100 more employees added under the new budget, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected to see a 9.6 percent increase with 800 new employees.
The IRS is also slated to receive $13.5 billion under the proposed budget, which, according to the National Treasury Employees Union, would help pay for an additional 8,493 full-time employees, including a $417 million adjustment to improve tax enforcement programs.
“Rebuilding the IRS workforce after a decade of cuts is essential to making sure our tax code is enforced fully and fairly, and we will urge Congress to follow through on this proposal and help improve enforcement and customer service at the IRS,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said in a statement.
The 2022 budget also reflects a ramping up of civilian personnel for the Space Force, with a planned nearly 1,000 full-time-equivalent employee increase across the operations and maintenance and the research and development portions of the agency.
The employment increases also reflect the Biden administration’s commitment to improved equality and labor management across the U.S., with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board each seeing a more than 13 percent increase in employees next year.
“Workers have cried out for more staffing so that agencies can fulfill their mission without resorting to enormous amounts of mandatory overtime, and President Biden has heard them,” American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.
“AFGE is thankful that substantial staffing increases to multiple agencies were included in the president’s first budget. For far too long, our members have spoken out about the dangers of understaffing agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Bureau of Prisons and Transportation Security Administration.”
Much of the push for increasing the labor force across the government is likely to come from programs that target recent-graduates and highly-skilled workers in areas like IT and cybersecurity.
“The Federal workforce continues to become older on average. Almost 30 percent (635,397) of employees are older than 55, while 8.1 percent (176,805) of employees are younger than 30. By comparison, in the private sector, 23 percent of the workforce is younger than 30. Every single agency has fewer employees younger than 30 today than they had in 2010,” the budget proposal’s analytical perspectives state.
“The number of paid internships dropped from more than 60,000 in 2010 to about 4,000 in 2020, reducing the opportunity for many to serve.”
The Biden administration also points to restrictions placed on internship and hiring programs for recent graduates as one of the reasons why the percentage of workers under 30 in the federal government dropped significantly after 2010. That disparity between older and younger employees is especially pronounced in the IT workforce.
The Office of Personnel Management will be expected to release updates to the Pathways internship program, and federal agency leaders have been instructed to examine an expand internship opportunities at their agencies. Such improvements to the internship process were a key component of a recent National Commission on Military, National and Public Service report on how to better incentivize employees to choose public service.
Another element of that report, making it easier for feds who left public service to return at a higher grade based on new experience, will also be a part of upcoming OPM guidance.
The budget proposal also includes $6.5 billion to launch the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, which will place additional federal focus on cancer and diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.