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Ross: Government Must Cut Federal Workforce

Everyone agrees that technology and automation have changed the face of the American workplace.

What once took 10 typists can now be done by one person with voice-to-text software. Research that once required five law librarians and 15 lawyers now takes one person a few hours online.

Nearly every business in America has adapted to this reality except the federal government — and it costs us all billions.

Last December, the White House’s deficit commission outlined a plan of action to address our nation’s fiscal woes. The report recommended reducing the size of the federal workforce by 10 percent.

Achieved through attrition, this proposal would force the government to find efficiencies and operate smarter.

While White House officials have paid lip service to the commission recommendations, they remain beholden to public employee unions, vehemently opposed to modernization and rightsizing of the workforce, whose members and unions finance and mobilize on behalf of the president and Congressional Democrats.

Unlike President Bill Clinton, who, along with Congressional Republicans, reduced the federal workforce by 381,000 during his term, President Barack Obama has grown the workforce. Under this president, the federal payroll has increased by 180,000, with plans for adding an additional 15,000 in fiscal 2012. This explosive growth, when most American businesses are downsizing, demonstrates how disconnected from reality this president is.

That is why I, along with Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)  and Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), introduced H.R. 2114 to reduce the size of the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition.

This approach will force agency heads to justify their workforce needs while reining in the size of the federal footprint. At the same time, it will avoid massive layoffs.

The fact is the federal payroll, and the legacy costs, must be rightsized. Public sector union leadership can recognize this and assist us, or they can continue their knee-jerk opposition to the modern workforce. We hope they choose the latter.

Regardless, the American people are demanding Washington get its house in order and reduce the size and cost of government. The Congressional Budget Office estimates $248 billion in savings through 2021 from shrinking the federal workforce combined with a pay freeze for civilian employees through 2015.

I and my colleagues appreciate our talented federal workforce and recognize the critical services it provides.

However, the size of the federal workforce now stands at more than 2.1 million. Over the past decade, the private sector has reduced management layers and streamlined operations. The federal government must do the same.

I am aware this proposal is just the beginning of a long journey to fiscal responsibility. There are many other initiatives that must be undertaken to achieve this goal.

On the spending side, I have introduced the Zero Based Budget Act to require departments to start at zero and build and justify budgets yearly. Needed reforms such as H.J.Res 1, the Balanced Budget Amendment recently marked up in Judiciary, also will hopefully head to the floor.

Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) has introduced, and I have co-sponsored a biennial budget bill, which would require Congress to budget in two-year cycles and allow for greater budgetary and spending oversight.

On the revenue side, my colleagues  and I continue to believe economic growth is the only sustainable revenue generator. Eliminating the capital gains tax, reducing corporate taxes and ending Obamacare will spur investment and release capital.

H.R. 2114 is a piece of the puzzle. A federal workforce that is smarter and leaner, coupled with a budget in balance and an economy on the move, will redound to the benefit of the private and public sectors.

While the market dictates reform in the private sector, sometimes Congress must act to force reform in the public sector. The American people are asking Washington to change, but their patience is wearing thin.

Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy.

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