Tonight President Trump will reportedly roll out his plans for the federal government under his watch. He’ll likely expand on his plan for an increase in military spending and a major decrease in funding for other domestic agencies. Problem is, the President is taking a misguided approach to curing what ails Washington. He says he wants to ‘drain the swamp,’ but fact is, President Trump is hurting veterans, disrupting the programs and services America needs, and filling the swamp in the process.
The civilian workforce (not including Postal Service employees) is roughly the same size it was during the Kennedy administration, with around 2 million hard-working men and women keeping our country running. And in the 56 years since JFK took office, we have multiple new agencies, the GDP has multiplied five times, and hiring has stagnated. Yet, despite that, federal working people have become popular targets for politicians pointing fingers, with threats of freezes, mass firings, and a rolling back of Civil Service laws.
Federal employees are the best-equipped workers to deliver services to the American people. They are the ones who keep our country running, and are the best trained workforce to deliver the services needed. And according to Paul R. Verkuil, president emeritus of the College of William & Mary, downsizing the federal government, “makes it harder, not easier, to achieve cost-saving goals, because it gets rid of the very professionals who are needed to bring about those savings.”
Not only is it harder to save money since you end up getting rid of the people you need to cut costs, but, when the government can’t hire, it must rely on unaccountable and more costly contractors to get the work done.
In 2015 around 61 separate public and private entities earned more than $1 billion in contracts from the federal government, with $320 billion of taxpayer dollars spent on service contracts that year alone. These contracts ran the gamut – energy, financials, health care, industrials and info tech to name a few – but they all had two similar components. High cost and low oversight.
Contractor pressure groups have continually succeeded in keeping the public in the dark about the work they do, what they charge, and how many they employ. This allows big-money defense contractors to escape the kind of budget scrutiny civilian and military workforces undergo. And that leads to big problems. When government work gets contracted out, taxpayers pay far more than it costs to do the work in-house, and accountability for quality, cost, and agency control goes out the window.
Conversely, in federal offices around the country, working people file into hospitals, military bases, laboratories, and federal workspaces every day and do their job. They have superiors to report to, internal oversight to check them, and external agencies ensuring that valuable American taxpayer dollars are put to good use. And when work isn’t done and people don’t perform, they’re reprimanded, suspended, or fired. It’s an open and transparent system that gives citizens the ability to see how the government spends their money. And it works.
But, in the last few decades, we’ve seen a massive shift of federal government dollars away from public servants and towards private companies instead. Private companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics are getting billions of dollars handed to them ever year – with $66.54 billion between those three in 2015 alone. Sometimes it’s for products, like a new Air Force One, sometimes it’s for people – the contractor workforce hovers somewhere between 4 and 6 million– and far too often, we just don’t know.
The last thing we need are more high-priced, low-accountability shadow workers running our government. But, the fact is, there are still ways for them to keep growing under the freeze – at a high premium to taxpayers like you and me.
Eighty-five percent of all federal employees live and work outside of Washington, and if President Trump truly wants to take aim at the swamp in D.C., he should look no further than the federal service contractors who eat up more than $320 billion of public tax dollars every year.
So, President Trump, I say to you now, on behalf of the 2 million federal working people – one-third of whom are veterans – unsure of what’s going to happen next: You can drain the S.W.A.M.P. another way – Stop Wasting America’s Money on Privatization.
Cox is national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 700,000 federal and D.C. government employees nationwide.
SOURCE American Federation of Government Employees