Issue Briefs

Following is the section of a newly released Trump administration budget document addressing its goals for the federal workforce.

President’s Management Agenda 21st Century Workforce Goal

While the FY 2020 Budget proposes several structural reforms, the PMA also lays out a framework for change that has the Federal workforce at its core. The Cross Agency Priority Goal focused on “Developing the 21st Century Workforce” has three focus areas: (1) actively managing the workforce based on performance; (2) devel­oping agile operations, which includes efforts to reskill and redeploy current Federal employees toward higher value work; and (3) transforming processes to acquire top talent. Complementing the PMA, OPM published the first ever Federal Workforce Priorities Report, a quadrennial report that outlines evidence-based Federal strategic HR priorities.

Actively Managing the Workforce Based on Performance

The Senior Executive Service (SES), comprising rough­ly 7,000 of the highest ranking Federal managers, hold the most critical career positions in the Government. SES members are disproportionately retirement-eligible. Due to the aging of the workforce, the Administration is continuing efforts to modernize policies and practices governing the SES, including creating a more robust and effective SES succession pipeline, which could include more recruitment outreach into the private sector. During the past year, OPM has modernized its approach to a range of SES processes, including performance appraisal programs, the Presidential Rank Awards program, SES allocations, and SES interviews.

Employee engagement indicators continued to im­prove, increasing one point from a year ago and five points since 2014. Almost all of the approximately 600,000 FEVS respondents reported that they are willing to put in extra effort to get the job done and are constantly looking for ways to do their jobs better. However, despite a system designed to protect the merit system, less than 40 percent believe pay raises depend on job performance, that pro­motions are based on merit, or that managers recognize differences in performance and take steps to address poor performers. As part of the PMA, agencies are working to enhance employee engagement via new training pro­grams and strategic employee award funding. Moreover, the Administration seeks other actions to address root cause challenges to employee engagement.

The President issued three Executive Orders (EOs) in May 2018 to rebalance the labor-management relation­ ship after years of management ceding its authority and increasing the costs of Government operations. Combined, (1) EO 13837 – Ensuring Transparency, Accountability, and Efficiency in Taxpayer-Funded Union Time Use; (2) EO 13836 – Developing Efficient, Effective, and Cost-Reducing Approaches to Federal Sector Collective Bargaining; and (3) EO 13839 – Promoting Accountability and Streamlining Removal Procedures Consistent with Merit System Principles, streamline dismissal proce­dures, minimize paid work time that Federal employees spend on union-related activities, and ensure that agen­cies emphasize Government efficiency as a goal of collective bargaining. OPM must publicly post online all union contracts and the amount of time employees spend on union operations. Agencies are to limit to a reasonable amount time spent in negotiation and the number of dis­cretionary topics negotiated. A new Interagency Labor Relations Working Group has been stood up to assist the OPM Director on Executive Branch labor-management relations matters and to make recommendations to the President for improving the organization, structure, and functioning of labor relations programs across agencies. To better manage performance, legislation is required to further streamline procedures for addressing unaccept­able behavior and adverse action procedures, including judicial review of certain arbitration awards.

Developing Agile Operations and Reskilling

As agencies implement new technology and processes, the Administration will invest in reskilling its workforce to meet current needs. Certain transactional work is go­ing away; for example, there are fewer Federal forms such as tax returns that require manual processing. Those who perform such work can shift to other responsibilities, in­cluding customer-facing roles. Current employees can also shift from legacy positions to emerging fields in which the Government faces shortages, such as data analysis, cyber­security, and other IT disciplines. Reskilling was one of the issues discussed at a September 2018 symposium on the Future of Work that OMB convened, which created a dialogue among more than 150 experts from Government, academia, and the private sector.

The Administration is also putting this idea into practice. For instance, Federal cybersecurity reskilling academies are being initiated under a joint venture be­ing conducted by the Chief Information Officer (CIO) Council and the Department of Education, in partnership with a private educational partner. Under this intensive program, cohorts of Federal employees from both IT and non-IT occupations will be trained to move into critically needed cybersecurity work roles such as incident response analysts and cyber defense analysts.