Washington, D.C. (Feb. 23, 2020)—Today, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, held a hearing to examine the current state of the federal workforce and the actions that are necessary to repair, rebuild, and fortify it for the future.
During his opening statement, Chairman Connolly announced the reintroduction of two critical pieces of legislation: The Merit Systems Protection Board Empowerment Act and The National Security Diversity and Inclusion Workforce Act.
The Merit Systems Protection Board Empowerment Act would reauthorize the board through 2026 and provide it with authority to survey federal employees to improve its ability to protect expertise in government. The National Security Diversity and Inclusion Workforce Act would require each component agency in national security to provide a public report on its diversity and inclusion efforts and encourage agencies to expand development and career advancement opportunities for its workforce.
On January 13, 2021, Chairman Connolly reintroduced the bipartisan Preventing a Patronage System Act to require the executive branch to seek explicit statutory authority to establish any categories of federal employee outside of the general schedule.
At today’s hearing, the Subcommittee heard testimony from Janice R. Lachance, Executive Vice President of Strategic Leadership and Global Outreach at the American Geophysical Union; Everett B. Kelley, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees; Anne Joseph O’Connell, Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law at Stanford University; and minority witness James Sherk, Former Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy at the White House Domestic Policy Council.
The Members and witnesses discussed how Congress must look both forward at the work that needs to be done and backward at the harm the Trump administration caused to create policies that will protect the federal workforce:
- Chairman Connolly: “While we overturn the catastrophic policies of the previous administration, and nourish a federal workforce starved of resources, we must simultaneously find ways to rebuild our civil service and attract the next generation to public service.”
The witnesses highlighted how – with the start of the Biden administration – the Subcommittee has the opportunity to restore and revitalize the federal workforce:
- Ms. Janice R. Lachance: “This subcommittee, working with the Biden administration, has a rare opportunity to build consensus, develop a legislative agenda, and leverage your oversight authority to modernize the federal human resources system.”
The witnesses emphasized that undoing the harmful policies of the Trump administration will increase federal workforce employee retention and morale:
- Mr. Everett B. Kelley: “Both [President Biden’s] Executive Orders on protecting the federal workforce from COVID-19 and the Executive Orders that revoke the previous administration’s anti-union Executive Orders promise a profound change in labor-management relations in federal agencies. Once every trace of this previous administration’s Executive Orders is eliminated… I believe we’ll see a vast improvement in morale, trust, recruitment, and retention.”
The witnesses stressed that the federal workforce needs financial investment and legislative support:
- Dr. Anne Joseph O’Connell: “Our agencies’ career workers have been undermined through reorganizations with insufficient buy-in, constrained budgets and pay, government shutdowns, White House directives, and the lack of confirmed leaders at the Merit Systems Protection Board.”
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