- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2013

The budget cuts known as sequestration were supposed to wreak havoc, forcing the shrinking of critical workforces including airport security officers and food inspectors.

But since sequestration kicked in March 4, the government has posted openings for 4,300 federal job titles to hire some 10,300 people.

The median position has a salary topping out at $76,000, and one-fourth of positions pay $113,000 or more, according to an analysis by The Washington Times of federal job listings.

Altogether, the jobs will pay up to $792 million per year. Including job postings that have been open since before sequestration, the government is in the market for 27,000 employees who will make up to $1.8 billion a year.

The jobs posted since sequestration include 10,195 positions at the Department of Agriculture, 2,800 at the Department of Veterans Affairs and 1,611 the Department of Health and Human Services.

They include jobs to provide services to military personnel on bases around the world, including 71 bartenders and 123 waiters.

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Nearly 200 positions related to Army-run bowling alleys are also open.

One position in Hawaii pays up to $110,000 — plus a 12 percent cost-of-living adjustment — to oversee such recreation facilities.

Most of the service jobs are funded through fees paid to those facilities and don’t get taxpayer money, but that explanation doesn’t wash with some watchdogs and lawmakers.

Lawmakers, including Sen. Tom Coburn, who said “there are 23 openings for taxpayer-funded jobs with the title Recreation Aide, Recreation Specialist, or Recreation Assistant,” say all that money speaks to the unyielding size of the government, which they say is the root cause of the sequester.

At the Transportation Security Administration, which said sequestration would result in widespread flight delays, 436 positions, almost all for security officers, have been posted since March 4.

TSA also is hiring for quality assurance, logistics management, information technology and program analyst roles. Each of these jobs can pay more than $137,000 a year.

SEE ALSO: Final tally: DHS released 622 criminals as part of sequester

An email from one federal agency indicated that it was intentionally placing the brunt of the cuts on critical and high-profile positions instead of low-priority jobs to lend credence to the dire warnings it had proffered to Congress in a plea for more funding.

We have gone on record with a notification to Congress and whoever else that [the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 states in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they provide funding to cover the costs.’ So it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be,” leaders said.

The Agriculture Department’s Forest Service is hiring numerous people at nearly 800 locations, but could not specify how many it would hire in all.

Where agencies said they were hiring “a few” or “many” people for a position, The Times estimated those values at five and 15, respectively, except for Forest Service positions being sought at hundreds of locations.

As a result of sequestration, the Forest Service does anticipate hiring possibly 1,000 fewer seasonal jobs this year,” spokeswoman Tiffany Holloway said in an email.

In February, Mr. Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, wrote to the Office of Management and Budget to point out that “at the same time the administration is warning sequestration could force laying off or furloughing U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, Defense civilian employees, or food safety inspectors, the federal government is also soliciting applicants for numerous lower priority jobs.”

Mr. Coburn pointed to positions including “a counsel for the Morris K. Udall Scholarship Foundation, salary range from $130,000 to $155,000 per year,” as examples of what could be eliminated to allow the required cuts to be as painless as possible.

But as weeks of sequestration continue unabated, the positions are stacking up.

The Food and Drug Administration is hiring more than 100 people. The Department of Energy is hiring a communications specialist paying from $124,000 to $156,000.

In Omaha, Neb., alone, Veterans Affairs is looking for 12 nurse anesthetists who would make between $126,000 and $198,000 — an annual salary not out of line in that in-demand field.

But even men of the cloth who have sworn a vow of poverty appear to make good money at the federal government, with a dozen chaplain jobs paying up to $100,000 listed since sequestration.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated Tuesday.

• Luke Rosiak can be reached at lrosiak@washingtontimes.com.

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