Coburn Calls For Federal Hiring Freeze to Address Sequester

Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:56am

The top Republican on the Senate panel that oversees the federal workforce is calling for leaving lower-level executive branch jobs unfilled to help offset the spending cuts required by the looming budget sequester.

The call from Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ranking member Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is the latest of his sometimes unpopular and quixotic attempts to convince other parts of the federal government to downsize programs.

In his latest criticism of government spending, Coburn is highlighting 10 federal jobs posted at the USAJobs portal that he considers “non-essential positions.”

Coburn said the executive branch could better address budget woes and find a way to help avert the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts set to begin at the end of this week through changes including workforce attrition.

“Instituting such a hiring freeze and re-assigning any of the necessary duties associated with each to current employees will allow federal agencies to adapt to the current fiscal realities without laying off or furloughing civil servants who are performing truly critical or absolutely necessary functions,” Coburn wrote in a Monday letter to Office of Management and Budget acting Director Jeff Zients.

Included on the list of federal workers that Coburn suggests should be targeted for elimination are 10 drivers at the State Department, a staff assistant at the Labor Department and an executive assistant at the Agriculture Department. It also includes a Marine Corps legislative analyst, a position that helps the Marine Corps understand the function and dysfunction on Capitol Hill and effectively answer lawmakers.

Coburn said that in his own office he has done away with seven full-time jobs in an effort to prepare for congressional budget belt-tightening. He’s using the job openings in the federal bureaucracy to ask broader questions about whether or not the OMB is looking at attrition as a way to help pay for the sequester. Administration officials have insisted that they have limited flexibility in implementing the spending reductions, saying that they must trim across the board except in accounts exempt under the law.

Several other Republicans have floated a plan to use attrition to decrease the size of the federal workforce to do away with spending cuts on the Defense side required by the sequester. On the Senate side, that proposal is championed by John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, but the national security hawks have not gained much traction.

Speaking Sunday on Fox News, Coburn said of the doom-and-gloom talk about the sequester going into effect: “I think, first of all, the crisis is made up. It’s been created.”