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Trim federal employment fat

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A major component of the cost of increased government spending has been the phenomenal growth in the work force of the nation's largest employer - the federal government.

The number of civilian jobs in federal agencies has jumped almost 31 percent since 2001 from 1.09 million to the current 1.428 million - and these numbers don't include the United States Postal Service. Surprisingly the military work force has remained flat since before the atrocity of Sept. 11, 2001. What is the cost to taxpayers of such a burgeoning budgetary behemoth? According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, in fiscal year 2011 the federal government will spend an estimated $180 billion on wages and salaries for civilian federal employees and another $64 billion on benefits - a total compensation of $244 billion excluding military personnel and postal employees. To put that number in perspective, the estimated fiscal year 2011 costs of the three largest federal entitlement programs are: Social Security at $730 billion, Medicare at $491 billion and Medicaid at $297 billion. To add insult to injury, according to two recent studies by the Heritage Foundation, federal workers are overpaid in both wages and benefits at a substantial cost to taxpayers - to the tune of $40 billion to $50 billion per year.

So what can be done to cut such extravagant costs without cutting essential services? A good start might be a 20 percent cut in the federal civilian work force - specifically, those who are the least productive (and, coincidentally, often the most highly paid). As anybody who has ever worked within the federal government for more than three days will tell you, there is a lot of fat in the federal work force, including workers who are extraordinarily unproductive, unnecessary and therefore extraordinarily costly to taxpayers. Most of this fat is sitting (literally) in two areas of low-hanging fruit just waiting to be plucked.

First, many of the highest paid federal fat cats are found within a bloated senior leadership staff of political appointees reminiscent of the co-workers Nathaniel Hawthorne found himself working with at the old Boston Custom House - the same spoils system that President James Garfield tried so hard to change in his short-lived presidency back in 1881.

Second, much of the fat spread throughout many government agencies consists of those federal "lifers" whose supervisors have, unfortunately, discovered that it simply takes too much time and hassle to fire because of the overly protective federal employee dismissal process and the aggressive response to such efforts by federal employee unions. This is not hyperbole or exaggeration - I have worked for the federal government for more than 20 years.

JIM BOWMAN

Medical Director

Division of Transplantation, Health Resources and Services Administration

Columbia, Md.

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