Federal employees commonly equate efficiency and reorganization initiatives—as first announced in an OMB memo issued last April that is to be fleshed out soon with the release of the President’s Management Agenda — as code for “downsizing.”
The OMB memo did call for reductions in the federal workforce both in the short term and in the long term. Previews of the management agenda, contained in the recent budget proposal and associated documents, call for “an optimally sized and skilled workforce.” They mention reducing positions by sharing among agencies common services such as IT, procurement and financial management; consolidating regional offices; and consolidating statistical services, among other potential steps. Much of that would require approval of Congress.
Notably absent was any mention of early retirement and buyout offers. The OMB memo of last April did anticipate that agencies would make such offers and promised “expedited reviews for most requests within 30 days.” While many employees hoped last year that agencies would be liberal in making offers to avoid potential RIFs, as it turned out only a handful of agencies offered incentives—EPA and State, most prominently—and even those were tightly targeted.
Meanwhile, the White House has again asked Congress to boost the buyout maximum to $40,000 government-wide. But its own budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 projects overall growth in federal jobs. It projects 2.095 million full-time equivalent positions, which would be up by the 10,000 projection for the current fiscal year, which in turn is 23,000 higher than the fiscal 2017 actual.
Within those totals, significant losses are projected at Agriculture, down 7,200 and the EPA, down 3,800. Those would be more than offset by growth at agencies including DHS, up 13,000, VA, up 8,000, and Commerce, up 9,100 (many of which would be part-time or temporary, though, related to the buildup to the 2020 census).