Opportunity for All: Obama’s 2015 Budget

The White House released the president’s proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year today. Here are some of the highlights that are likely to be of most interest to the federal workforce.

The president released his $3.9 trillion 2015 budget proposal today (March 4th).  Dubbed “Opportunity for All,” the budget addresses numerous areas such as education, health care, taxes, the environment, and of course, the federal workforce.

Highlighted below are some of the key parts of the budget that will likely have the most direct appeal to and potential impact on federal employees.

2015 Pay Raise

The president is proposing that federal workers get a 1% pay increase in 2015. When announced last week, federal employee unions and advocacy groups were quick to denounce the pay increase, using words such as “pitiful” and “insufficient” to describe the proposed raise. FedSmith.com users weighed in as well, having predicted the president would propose a 1% raise, but the majority of comments we have seen suggest most of our users agree with the unions and think the proposed pay increase should be higher.

Chained CPI

Perhaps some good news for federal employees is that we also know the budget will not include a chained CPI. Many groups are concerned that the use of such a measure would reduce federal retirement pensions. FedSmith.com author Robert Benson disagreed, however, saying that the loss under a chained CPI would not be as bad as has been publicized.

The budget addresses this measure, saying, “The compromise embedded in last year’s Budget—which included policies like changing the measure of inflation used by the Federal Government to the chained Consumer Price Index (“Chained-CPI”) that Republicans had asked for in previous fiscal negotiations-remains on the table. However, in light of congressional Republicans’ unwillingness to negotiate on fundamental issues and agree to a balanced plan to deal with our long-term fiscal challenges, this year the Administration is returning to a more traditional Budget presentation that lays out the President’s vision.”


The budget reiterates the call from the president’s state of the union speech to direct the Treasury Department to set up the MyRA plan to encourage more retirement saving.

Minimum wage

The president noted that he took action to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 per hour and wants to see this become the national minimum wage for all workers.

The Buffet Rule

The president affirmed his support for the Buffet Rule, an extra tax that would require wealthy Americans to pay no less than 30 percent of income—after charitable contributions—in taxes.

Raising airline fees

Referred to in the budget as “reforming,” it proposes requiring airline passengers to pay $5 billion more over the next decade for transportation security, i.e. for TSA. The budget also says TSA will reduce staffing costs $100 million over the next year by focusing on high-risk passengers through programs such as Pre-check, which allows some travelers to use speedier checkpoint lines at the airport.

FEHBP for domestic partners

The budget has a line item which says, “Provide FEHBP (Federal Employees Health Benefits Program) benefits to domestic partners” but offers no further elaboration on details for how this would be implemented.

DOD Facilities Improvement

Sequestration required significant funding cuts for DOD facilities, forcing the Department to defer some sustainment, restoration, and modernization (SRM) costs, as well as some military construction projects. The base budget provides the funds necessary to keep DOD bases, housing, and other facilities safe, secure, and operational, but not enough to avoid long-term deterioration. The Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative provides additional resources for SRM and construction at hundreds of DOD installations that will generate jobs and reduce future costs to replace buildings, roads, runways, and other facilities.

Unlocking the full potential of the federal workforce

The budget states:

To fully capitalize on the talents in today’s workforce at all levels, and recruit and develop the capabilities needed for the future, the Administration is committed to undertaking executive actions that will attract and retain the best talent in the Federal workforce and foster a culture of excellence.
Creating a Culture of Excellence and Engagement to Enable Higher Performance. Data-driven approaches to enhancing management, performance, and innovation across the Federal workforce are critical to fostering a culture of excellence. In 2015, the Administration will support the development of Government-wide enterprise training and resource exchanges across agencies to share best practices and increase leadership development opportunities within Government.
Building a World-Class Federal Management Team Starting with the Senior Executive Service (SES)
To ensure the Government sustains a first-class Federal workforce, the Administration will continue to invest in civil service leadership. The Administration will take administrative actions to produce a Federal executive corps with a broader, stronger experience base. For example, the Budget includes funding for the Office of Personnel Management to build a stronger onboarding program for new SES, and leadership and engagement training opportunities for current SES that emphasize diversity and the changing needs of a 21st Century workforce.

Enabling Agencies to Hire the Best Talent from All Segments of Society
The Administration is committed to working with labor groups to improve hiring outcomes by exploring flexible approaches to recruit and retain individuals with high-demand talents and skills. Beginning in 2015, the Administration will launch demonstration projects to identify promising practices in recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and deploying talent across agencies. The goal of these projects is to increase diversity, reduce skills gaps, and improve organizational outcomes.

Reducing administrative overhead

In November 2011, the President signed an Executive Order to promote efficient spending that called for agencies to make a 20 percent reduction in their 2013 spending on administrative areas. These included travel, advisory contracts, printing, extraneous promotional items, and transportation.

In May 2012, the Administration outlined a series of actions for further spending reductions and increasing both transparency and oversight of Federal conference and travel activity. As a result, agencies have reduced travel and conference spending alone by more than $3 billion. Overall, agencies have saved over $16 billion on administrative activities.

The Administration is continuing these efforts through the strategic sourcing, shared services, and administrative benchmarking efforts outlined above. Specific examples include a 20 percent reduction in operating budgets for DOD’s headquarters staff through consolidating duplicative efforts and strengthening management functions.

Training for federal employees

In order to help train, retain, and recruit a skilled and effective Federal workforce, investments should be targeted to employee training to common, but high-impact areas such as customer service or information technology. It will also help us put a stop to short-sighted cuts to Government operations that compromise efficiency and effectiveness and cost money over the long run, such as growing deferred maintenance backlogs, sharp cuts to Federal employee training, and erosions in customer service at agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.