Fedweek

Spending bills advancing in the House would impose additional restrictions on agency reorganizations that commonly cause the transfer or loss of federal employee jobs—and likely will raise issues about how much leeway agencies have to carry out those plans, which administration officials recently said could be released shortly.

Language in several bills produced so far by the House Appropriations Committee for the fiscal year starting in October mirrors restrictions in a budget law enacted in March that is effective until then.

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The key measure is the general government appropriations bill, which says that without prior approval of that committee and its Senate counterpart, agencies could not spend from any source in a way that “eliminates a program, project, or activity”; “reduces existing programs, projects, or activities by $5,000,000 or 10 percent, whichever is less”; or “creates or reorganizes offices, programs, or activities.”

It also states that agencies would have to “consult” with those committees “prior to any significant reorganization or restructuring of offices, programs, or activities.” Further, “None of the funds made available in this or any other appropriations Act may be used to increase, eliminate, or reduce funding for a program, project, or activity as proposed in the President’s budget request for a fiscal year until such proposed change is subsequently enacted in an appropriation Act, or unless such change is made pursuant to the reprogramming or transfer provisions of this or any other appropriations Act.”

Similar language in other appropriations bills. For example, the bill covering DoT and HUD requires approval by those committees “of any proposal to reprogram funds” and says the committee “expects the agencies and bureaus to submit reprogramming requests in a timely manner and to provide a thorough explanation of the proposed reallocations, including a detailed justification of increases and reductions and the specific impact of proposed changes.”

The bill covering Commerce, Justice and science agencies restricts agency leeway over any step that “relocates an office or employees”; “reorganizes or renames offices, programs, or activities”; or “contracts out or privatizes any functions or activities presently performed by federal employees” among other potential changes.

Some members of Congress already have cited similar restrictions in the earlier budget agreement as acting to prevent office closings, employee transfers and other outcomes of reorganizations without specific permission of Congress.