President Calls for Five Year Spending Freeze, Government Reorganization, in State of the Union Address
In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama laid out his vision for our nation’s future, and what role the federal government would play in making that vision a reality. Though specifics were sparse throughout the nearly hour-long speech, he announced two major initiatives that could have far-reaching implications for the federal workforce.
Citing the nation’s growing budget deficit, the President called for a five year freeze on all discretionary spending unrelated to national security. In addition he called for tens of billions in cuts to the annual Department of Defense budget, though they will not be obligatory. Over ten years, the Administration estimates these cuts will save a combined $400 billion dollars in projected spending. Though the savings appear huge, the true cost of this freeze will be even greater.
Federal employees, who have already seen their salaries frozen through 2013, will now have fewer resources to do the work the American people ask them to do. When discretionary spending is frozen, annual appropriations are capped at the level they were at the time of the freeze. This in turn robs federal agencies of the flexibility they need to meet the increased demand for government services which is sure to come in the near future. Retiring baby boomers, for example, will soon start collecting social security checks in droves. With fewer resources to get the job done, America’s retiree will simply have to wait longer for the benefits they have earned through a lifetime of hard work.
“Let’s be clear: This is a service freeze, not a spending freeze,” said NFFE National President William R. Dougan. “Any time you talk about reducing spending, you have to discuss which services the taxpayers are willing to spend on, and which ones they are not. Arbitrary freezes like this one diminish the quality and quantity of all government services, including those most vital to our society. The American people deserve to know explicitly where Washington wants to scale back.”
Also emphasized in the President’s address was a proposal to reorganize the federal government. Citing numerous cases wherein several departments share overlapping authority, Obama called for a more efficient federal bureaucracy:
“In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America. I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote – and we will push to get it passed.”
The President did not get down to specifics regarding which departments and agencies will be impacted by this reorganization, but details are anticipated to emerge when the President issues his budget early next month. NFFE will continue to utilize its strength in Washington to make sure that federal workers are protected as these proposals unfold.