I recently received an article from a friend which highlights Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo attempt to introduce a bill which would require most federal employees to take two weeks of unpaid leave in fiscal year 2012. HR 270 would mandate civilian federal employees take nonconsecutive furlough days until they had fulfilled their furlough requirement (Losey, 2011). While the article did not explain Rep. Coffman’s intentions for introducing this bill, it’s fair to assume he is doing so as part of the cost-cutting effort to reel in federal government spending.
In addition to Rep. Coffman’s attack on federal employees, a national Washington Post telephone poll of 1002 adults, conducted September 30 – October 3, 2010, revealed more than half of those polled believe federal employees are overpaid for the work they do (Rein & O’Keefe, 2010). In addition, more than a third of those polled believe federal employees are less qualified than those working in the private sector (Rein & O’Keefe, 2010). As a veteran, and a current federal employee, I question the sensibility and accuracy of these actions and assertions.
I can think of a 101 different places to start reshaping federal government spending. One that immediately comes to mind is cost overruns associated with new military technology development. The current Joint Strike Fighter program is $92 billion dollars over budget…and 2 ½ years behind schedule (Hedgpeth, 2010). This is simply unacceptable. Yet, lawmakers like Rep. Coffman, create an environment which allows defense industry contractors, like Lockheed Martin, to extort an incalculable amount of money from the federal government. Perhaps Rep. Coffman and the rest of his cronies in Washington would do a better job of controlling federal government spending by holding defense industry contractors libel for cost overruns, rather than steal from the salaries of those that serve the very federal government that Rep. Coffman is trying to reshape.
As a federal employee, I am not overpaid. However, I am paid a salary that I believe adequately quantifies my worth. This is not always the case in the private sector, which tends to exploit its workers as a means to maximize profitability. While the general public perceives federal workers are overpaid, it can be stated with equal conviction that those in the private sector are underpaid. It is this underpayment of private sector workers, not overpayment of federal employees, which creates the false perception that federal employees are overpaid.
I have worked in both the federal government and private sectors. When it comes to training, which directly influences job ability and ultimately qualification, the federal government is by far more thorough. This is true not only in initial training, but continuation training. In my current federal position, I received two months of initial training. While by no means completely knowledgeable, the training I received ensured my ability to better accomplish the day-to-day responsibilities of my position immediately upon the completion of my training. In the private sector however, the most initial training I ever received amounted to three days. After training, I was still expected to perform the responsibilities of my position as a seasoned pro, despite the lack of training. It is this emphasis on training that makes me more qualified in my current federal position (with more responsibility), then I ever could have been in my private sector position (with less responsibility).
As of late, it seems as if it’s fashionable to attack federal employees. Whether it’s the expectation by politicians that federal employees do their “fair” share to help the federal government control costs, or erroneous perceptions by the general public regarding pay and work quality, federal employees are the latest scapegoats for the ills of a country filled with citizens that are unable or unwilling to take responsibility for their actions or inactions.
Hedgpeth, D. (2010, 12 March). GAO Analyst Says Cost Overruns, Delays Continue to Plague F-35 Program. Retrieved January 22, 2011, from The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/11/AR2010031102462.html
Losey, S. (2011, January 13). Lawmaker Proposes Two Weeks Unpaid Leave for Most Feds. Retrieved January 22, 2011, from Federal Times.com: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20110113/BENEFITS05/101130303/1001
Rein, L., & O’Keefe, E. (2010, October 18). New Post Poll Finds Negativity Toward Federal Workers. Retrieved January 22, 2011, from The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/17/AR2010101703866.html