Readers Say Change in Leadership in Congress is Positive

In a recent poll of readers, most think the election results are a positive event and that contracting is the most significant issue facing the federal workforce.

We can all breathe a sigh of relief. The mid-term elections are over. The incessant ads with ugly pictures and irritating announcers blaring about the terrible opponent of the ad sponsor are off the airwaves for a few more months.

Our readers are generally knowledgeable about political events and apparently pay attention to issues. One reader sent in a comment about the eerie nature of a poll of our readers in June that provided a strong indication the Democrats would take control of Congress in November. That obviously came to pass although at the time of the poll the common wisdom was that the Republicans would retain control of the Senate.

The accuracy of some of these unscientific polls has not been limited to the most recent one. For example, a poll taken before the last presidential election showed readers with a preference for George Bush over John Kerry. You can check out the results of our previous polls right here.

While the polls are not scientific, our audience is unique. Federal employees probably read or watch the news more than the average American and are knowledgeable of and have opinions about current issues. No doubt, many readers influence others and they often react quicker to events as a result. From having read the results of these polls from over the past few years, the attitudes or preferences of our readers are often several weeks ahead of what shows up later in election results or national polls. While a poll of 1000 – 1500 people who typically take part in our surveys is not scientific, the unique nature of the federal workforce seems to make the polls an indicator of what is likely to show up in later results.

The response to our most recent survey shows that most readers are happy with the outcome of the election. And, in what may be a surprise to some, the issue identified by readers as the most significant issue facing the federal workforce is not pay and benefits or the pending retirement of the baby boomers in the workforce. The number one issue according to readers is contracting of government services.

Here is a quick summary of these results.

What is your view of the change in leadership for the House of Representatives?

  • positive change: 58%
  • negative change: 27%
  • no difference 10%
  • undecided: 6%

How will the changes brought about by the election impact federal employees?

  • positive change: 47%
  • negative change: 18%
  • no difference: 19%
  • undecided: 16%

In your view, what is the most significant current issue for the federal workforce?

  • baby boomer retirement exodus: 16%
  • benefit levels for federal employees: 5%
  • contracting of government services: 28%
  • federal hiring process: 3%
  • leadership in the workforce: 11%
  • labor relations structure and issues: 7%
  • pay levels: 5%
  • pay-for-performance: 19%
  • promotion policies: 1%
  • other: 3%
  • undecided: 2%

Here is a sampling of comments from readers expressing their concerns and their reaction to the recent election results.

A human resources specialist from Alexandria, VA says: “NSPS and MAXHR and the Presidents Civil Service Modernization Act are the most significant issues facing the federal workforce, followed closely by contracting of government services.”

A senior official from the Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground commented: “Split government always yields better results.”

A transportation planner from DOT in Ft. Worth, Texas opined: “I believe that the Senate/House Chambers leadership change will bring about positive actions on outsourcing federal jobs, a move to reform the federal hiring process, and a closer look at the new pay-for-performance federal system.”

A retired branch manager from GSA in Seattle wrote: “Contracting out sensitive positions is absolutely dangerous in the world we live in today. Baby Boomer retirements are also going to hit hard and the agencies are not prepared and bleeding badly.”

An engineer with the Forest Service in Durango, Colorado likes the election results: “Generally, Democrats have been friendlier to government employees.”

But a safety inspector with the FAA does not completely agree with this assessment: “Democrats are always good for civil service workers and people on welfare. Unfortunately, they are not the best for America in the long run.”

A budget analyst with the Forest Service in Washington, DC sees this problem: “A76 Circular is a major problem with in my organization. ”

An employee with the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming thinks lack of leadership is the biggest issue: “Leadership from the Secretary on down is a big issue. Stop putting in political appointees who don’t know what they are doing, especially lower down the foodchain. Too many lawyers, not enough specialists.”

A human resources specialist from the Treasury Dept. in Dallas thinks pay-for-performance is a problem: “Pay for performance will tear the Federal morale to shreds if fully implemented. I don’t expect that to happen now. I think we have a Congress that will listen to Federal employees now.”

A supervisor with the Department of Agriculture in Portland, Oregon does not think the election results are a positive event: “People that voted Democrat voted for feel-good programs [that] will be enacted by the Dems. Not good for those of us that work and have to pay for them. But I predict that the Democrats will destroy themselves in the next 2 years by all of the in-fighting. They didn’t like the Republican House majority leader but look what they have wished on themselves now. They deserve her.”

A human resources specialist with the Department of Interior has this observation: “Time will tell – I’m a die hard Republican, but my party had 8 years and they blew it, so they got what they deserved.”

A human resources specialist with the Army in Alexandria, VA commented: “The current Administration has been quietly placing politicals in permanent (not political appointees)SES positions. This will influence management policies years after Bush is gone.”

A contracting officer from Scott AFB, IL has a broad perspective: “The Republicans need to listen to the people; maybe this is the wake up call that was needed. I anticipate a paralyzed government for the next two years. The Republicans need to get smart and start producing (e.g., social security reform, immigration reform, permanent tax cuts, etc). Please, please, please listen to us – if there are dollars allocated for specific new projects, there should be the equal amount of reduction in spending somewhere else. That is the way we American’s run our households. Afterall, these are OUR dollars they are spending.”

A biologist with the FDA in Maryland sees pay parity as the biggest concern: “Best thing that has happened to us! Professionals need pay parity to private industry!”

An accountant from DFAS in Charleston, SC has this perspective on contracting: “The biggest problem with contracting is that we can not form employee owned associations and submit our own bids. State and local governments have found that when this is allowed, the employees, who know the job best, are able to eliminate overhead and other costs to an extent that allows them to make more money while the governments actually have to pay less.”

An administrative officer with USDA in Madison, WI says this about contracting: “Having been involved with A-76 competitions and other instances of contracting of government, in the majority of cases I see no benefit to taxpayers. In many cases it results i poorer service for a higher cost.”

And a supervisor from DoD in Tobyhanna, PA has this perspective: “I feel we will see a quick exodus by the newly elected majority of Democrats in the House and Senate. Although I am a proponent of pay for performance I feel that the rejection by the Federal Circuit Court for the Labor Relations portion of NSPS crippled the system as intended and therefore would not be able to fulfill the commitment of its intent. Hopefully the new House and Senate will act quickly to suspend and will repeal all NSPS actions that have occurred to this point. We don’t need to go from a bad GS system to an even worse NSPS.”

Our thanks to all readers who participated in this survey and a special thanks to those who took the time to send in their written comments.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47