Organizations representing federal employees are using the recent budget measure that loosened the fiscal purse strings for many agencies to argue that now is the time to address under-staffing resulting from years of restrictions.

They are making those arguments as Congress holds hearings before writing appropriations bills for the fiscal year that begins October 1—even though there already is a general expectation that final decisions will be pushed off until after the November elections.

The National Treasury Employees Union for example has pitched for increased staffing at Customs and Border Protection for frontline officers and agriculture inspectors beyond the increases the administration has proposed. It also argues that the IRS should recover some of its drop in employment since 2010 –from about 92,000 to about 70,000 full-time employees—saying that has resulted in less enforcement of the tax laws and has degraded customer service to the public. Funding levels in the White House budget request would cause a further drop of 5,800, it said.

The American Federation of Government Employees meanwhile has said that while the budget request would allow for the addition of some 700 TSA screeners, there is a need for 5,000 more, citing the dangers to the public overstretching that workforce. AFGE also is pressing for more aggressive hiring to fill vacancies at the VA, most recently estimated at about 33,000 from an authorized workforce of some 360,000; the budget proposal seeks a further 8,000 boost.

A number of members of Congress, mainly Senate Democrats, have also raised concerns about staffing levels at the VA and CBP, as well as at agencies that have experienced reductions, or are projected to, including Agriculture and State.