House Majority Leader Sees Federal Employee Issues as Vital to America


3/1/07: A senior leader in the U.S. House on February 27 promised to work for a fair pay raise for federal employees and in support of their efforts to rein in runaway contracting—not just because that supports federal workers, but because it is good for America.

“The focus of the federal workforce is on service to the America people,” House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told the opening session of the annual legislative conference of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).Therefore, he said, federal employees are, in meaningful ways, the essence of our country.

“America is blessed by your service and commitment,” he told the more than 300 NTEU members gathered from around the country for the start of the three-day event. That means, he said, that “the government needs to keep faith with those who have made this commitment to their country.”

In practical terms, the Majority Leader said he and the rest of the congressional leadership “will take a good look” at the White House’s proposal for a 3 percent federal civilian and military pay raise in 2008. That comes after a 2.2 percent pay raise in 2007, the lowest in some 20 years.

As a long-time advocate of comparability between public and private sector pay, Rep. Hoyer cautioned that “if the federal government can’t compete with the private sector for the best and brightest employees, then (the United States) can’t compete with the rest of the world.”

On the matter of contracting out, Rep. Hoyer warned that the loss of federal jobs to the private sector leads to the loss of extensive expertise now available in federal agencies. “We are contracting out services that are critical,” he said, “and we don’t have the expertise inside (agencies) to tell if we’re getting what we want and need from contractors.” The Majority Leader said that, at a minimum, Congress needs to “make sure that federal employees have the right to compete for their jobs on a fair and even basis.” He also questioned claims of extensive dollar savings from contracting federal work. “The savings are over a very short term, two or three years,” he said. After that, he added, “costs escalate, very rapidly.”