GOP platform takes aim at federal workforce

The Republican Party unveiled its national platform Tuesday, revealing its plan to downsize the federal workforce, trim federal benefits and privatize airport screeners.

The platform calls for a wholesale reinvention of the federal government, which has become “bloated, antiquated and unresponsive to taxpayers,” according to the plan.

“It is our intention not only to improve management and provide better services, but also to rethink and restructure government to bring it into the twenty-first century,” the drafters of the Republican plan wrote.

GOP platform

The 2012 Republican Party platform contains a number of proposals related to the federal workforce, including:

  • Reducing the workforce by 10 percent through attrition
  • Cracking down on tax-delinquent federal employees
  • Disbanding TSA in favor of private-sector airport screeners
  • Restructuring cash-strapped USPS and exploring a “greater role for private enterprise”

Federal workforce

The plan calls for a reduction in the federal workforce by at least 10 percent through attrition.

The authors of the plan say the federal workforce has grown by 140,000 workers under President Barack Obama — figures which are borne out by May 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to a New York Times fact-check.

The platform also calls for changing federal pay and benefits packages “to reflect those of the private sector.”

The platform also calls out federal employees who fail to pay their taxes, saying it has “become too common in some segments of the civil service.” Under a Republican administration, cracking down on tax-delinquent feds would be given higher priority, the plan said.

The Republican-controlled House passed a bill last month, allowing the government to boot federal employees who are seriously delinquent in paying their taxes.

Platform singles out TSA, USPS

The platform calls for the privatization of airport security screening, a role now undertaken by the Transportation Security Administration.

The platform characterizes the TSA as a “massive bureaucracy” made up of employees “who seem to be accountable to no one for the way they treat travelers.”

The agency, created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has long drawn the ire of lawmakers, both for mismanagement of agency programs as well as the often inconvenient screening process.

The plan also calls for a “dramatic restructuring” of the U.S. Postal Service.

“In light of the Postal Service’s seriously underfunded pension system” — the agency defaulted on a $5.5 billion payment to pre-fund pension costs last month — “Congress should explore a greater role for private enterprise in appropriate aspects of the mail-processing system.”

The platform specifically calls on Congress to make reforms to the cash-strapped agency.

The Senate approved comprehensive postal reform legislation in April, but House Republicans said the measure amounted to little more than a bailout and would actually make it more difficult for the agency to cut costs by closing facilities.

Not necessarily Romney’s ideas

It’s important to note the party platform doesn’t necessarily represent the personal views of its putative standard-bearer, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

“This is the platform of the Republican Party; it’s not the platform of Mitt Romney,” the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, told NBC News last week, when the plan was still in draft form.

Still, Romney has proposed similar issues himself. On his official website, the Republican presidential candidate includes a proposal to reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition as part of his plan to “improve the efficiency and effectiveness” of the federal government.

Romney has also called for federal pay and benefits to be aligned with the private sector.

“Federal compensation exceeds private sector levels by as much as 30 to 40 percent when benefits are taken into account,” according to a statement on Romney’s website. “This must be corrected.”

Similarly, Romney’s choice for vice president, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), has also proposed scaling back federal benefits.

In the “Path to Prosperity” budget proposal he introduced as chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan advocated for a 10-percent workforce reduction and for federal employees to contribute more toward their retirement.

“Federal employees deserve to be compensated equitably for their important work, but their pay levels, pay increases and fringe benefits should be reformed to better align with those of their private-sector counterparts,” according to Ryan’s budget plan.

Union response

The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest union representing federal employees, quickly registered its opposition to the Republican plan.

“GOP leaders continue to promote the belief that government is to blame for all of the nation’s ills and that the solution lies in taking a hacksaw to federal programs that everyone in this country relies on,” said AFGE President J. David Cox in a statement released Monday, before the party platform had officially been adopted.

Cox pointed to the work of government food-safety inspectors, border patrol guards and doctors at veteran medical centers.

“Without proper staffing and funding, these government services would simply cease to exist, leaving millions of Americans high and dry,” Cox said.


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