Coburn Proposes Eliminating Unnecessary Federal Employees

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By on March 28, 2013 in Human Resources with 0 Comments

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) sent a letter this week to OPM director John Berry urging agency heads to eliminate federal employees that do not show up for work, who are not performing official work, or who are simply not working at all as a cost saving means to avoid furloughs of essential employees.

“Thousands of essential federal employees performing critical missions from food safety to national security are being threatened with furloughs, while others who are literally paid to do nothing or do not even show up for work are being retained,” Coburn wrote in his letter.

According to Coburn, the categories of employees he cited break down as follows:

  • AWOL Employees: Between 2001 and 2007, employees at 18 departments and agencies were AWOL for at least 19.6 million hours, equivalent to 9,410 years of lost work.
  • Employees Being Paid to Perform Non-Official Duties: In 2011, the government spent over $155 million on 3.4 million hours of official time for employees that show up for work but were being paid to perform duties not related to the mission of their agency or the government. According to the Office of Personnel Management, this is equivalent to a full year’s worth of work for 1,632 employees.
  • Employees Paid to “Stand By”: At least 919 employees received standby pay in 2010, and 906 received it in 2011. The total cost of paying for these employees not to work over this two year period was over $13.1 million.
  • Government Contractors Paid to Do Nothing: Delays in the security clearance process have kept between 10 and 20 percent of all intelligence contractors sitting idle awaiting a clearance while still being paid large salaries. The cost of wasted contractor man-hours to the government has been estimated to be roughly between $900 million and $1.8 billion a month.

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.