Patricia Niehaus is national president of the Federal Managers Association and chief of labor and employee relations at Travis Air Force Base.

And the hits just keep on coming………..

The latest estimate of contributions federal employees have made to resolving the country's budget crisis is $159 billion. That came from a group of dedicated public servants who represent less than 1 percent of the total population of the United States. In spite of the fact that we are a very small part of the population, we have contributed more than any other group in the country. And now some members of Congress say we should do even more. Less than 1 percent of the population should bear even more of this burden. That's after three years with no cost of living increases and only 1 percent each of the past two years. I'm sure every citizen of this country is aware that inflation rose more than 2 percent in the last five years!

When he was elected, President Obama said he wanted to make public service "cool" so that young people would want to serve our country. Well, I'd say the current political climate makes public service more cold than cool. How can you expect to attract and retain the best and the brightest employees when they see federal employees being attacked left and right by the governing body who should be supporting them? Congress is doing a fine job of making civil service the last choice many young people would make! And that makes our jobs as managers in the federal government increasingly difficult.

After the satisfaction of serving our country, two of the most often cited attractions of civil service – retirement and job security – are under seemingly endless attack.

Our current retirement systems all utilize the calculation of retirement annuities based on the highest three consecutive years of earnings. The Government Employee Pension Reform Act (HR 1230) would change that formula to reflect the highest five consecutive years of earnings. It's estimated that this would save the government $3.1 billion over ten years. That $3.1 billion would come directly out of the pockets of federal employees who have served their country long enough to earn their retirements, which in most cases means over 30 years.

A House Budget Committee report is looking at how the Thrift Savings Plan G Fund interest is calculated. The Government Securities Investment Fund is based on the same formula as the securities issued to Social Security's Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds. Therefore, everyone contributing to Social Security is getting the benefit of the same investment rate as the feds who are investing in the G fund of the TSP. More than 90 percent of the federal employees who voluntarily contribute to the TSP have at least part of their investments in the G Fund. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB), which administers the TSP (a retirement and savings plan for federal employees and members of the uniformed services that is similar to private sector 401(k) plans), has gone on record challenging the projected savings of the changes proposed to the G Fund, as many employees will simply move their money to another Fund and the FRTIB will likewise move around funds in the lifestyle accounts they manage. And, really, we're not talking big returns anyway. The 12-month returns (April 2014 through March 2015) were only 2.19 percent! Over the past 10 years, the returns averaged 3.19 percent.

Rep. Tom Rice, R-SC, has introduced a bill that reduces pay by 8.7 percent for any federal employee making $100,000 or more. As one member of the Federal Managers Association, Dick Oppedisano, said: "If it isn't difficult enough to recruit professionals and offer an incentive for employees to join the ranks of managers and supervisors, this bill will make it impossible." This bill would impact employees across the country at the grades of GS-13 and above and in a few high cost areas, at GS-12 and above. These are the senior leaders in various locations across the country. They usually have many years of service, having progressed through the ranks, and have amassed an incredible amount of experience and expertise. Most managers and employees in GS-13, GS-14, and GS-15 positions could easily move to the private sector and get a significant increase in salary. Choosing an arbitrary cut off point for salaries earned over many years of service will only decrease the ability of the government to recruit and retain senior managers.

Two other bills will make it harder to accomplish our missions by arbitrarily demanding cuts in staffing levels. The Cynthia Lummis Attrition bill (HR 417) calls for agencies to only be allowed to hire one new employee for every three employees who leave federal service. This doesn't take into account the impact on many of the critical missions of this country. If three Social Security Customer Service Representatives decide to retire, do you really think one replacement can handle that workload? And the REDUCE Act, sponsored by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., would eliminate 15 percent of the civilian DoD workforce. I work in DoD and I know what DoD civilians do—and the vital importance of civilians in fulfilling of the DoD mission. Arbitrarily eliminating 15 percent of the workforce without eliminating 15 percent of the mission means more military members will have to work longer hours to compensate for the absence of the civilians who have been supporting the mission of defending our country.

Yes, there are a few civil servants who have abused their positions and, as a federal manager and a taxpayer, I am very offended by the actions of those individuals. They should be held accountable. However, the vast majority of civil servants are hard-working, honest people who go to work every day to make this country better. Congress and the public should keep these dedicated civil servants in mind instead of the small minority of abusers when making laws and policies.

The federal civil service should be the model employer that other employers want to emulate. We should be such an attractive employer that we have young people lining up to compete for positions as their first choices instead of looking elsewhere. The business of government cannot run without civil servants. It's past time for Congress to realize that the people who make up the Federal Civil Service are the best assets this country has!

In Other News
Load More