White House Plans ‘Multi-Year Strategy’ To Boost Federal Workforce

Pam Coleman, associate director of performance and personnel management at the Office of Management and Budget, said reforms will be ongoing.

Pam Coleman, associate director of performance and personnel management at the Office of Management and Budget, said reforms will be ongoing. Russell Contreras / AP file photo

Hiring and pay raises are priorities, and key lawmakers say the 2022 increase is on track.

The White House’s czar for federal personnel pledged ongoing reforms over President Biden’s first term in office to empower and support civil servants, saying on Tuesday the policies already announced were only a down payment on a much larger commitment. 

The Biden administration views increasing pay and easing hiring for federal workers as key priorities, Pam Coleman, associate director of performance and personnel management at the Office of Management and Budget, said at a conference hosted by the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. Coleman spelled out more details of previously announced plans to improve the hiring process, first put forward as part of Biden’s fiscal 2022 budget proposal. 

That blueprint noted the administration would create a “new office” to launch governmentwide hiring initiatives. Coleman said on Tuesday that “line of business” would be jointly managed by OMB and the Office of Personnel Management and would also help create new “qualifying assessments to improve the overall hiring process.” Each agency will also build its own “talent team,” Coleman said, which will help connect agencies and hiring managers with top potential applicants. She reiterated the administration’s plans to boost internship programs at agencies to create more pipelines for career workers. 

“The administration supports a return to fully staffed agencies to ensure they can meet their missions on behalf of the American people,” Coleman said. She explained the new hires would be additive, seeking to boost agency rolls “without displacing or harming current employees.” 

She highlighted what the administration views as its top accomplishments for the federal workforce so far, including reversing Trump-era policies, rebuilding relationships with unions, protecting employees from COVID-19, empowering federal scientists and stabilizing compensation.  

“We view these FY22 budget priorities as a first step and part of a multi-year strategy,” Coleman said. The White House hinted in budget documents that it would unveil additional workforce policies when it releases Biden's management agenda later this year.   

She added that unlike in the Trump era, Biden’s budget made no effort to lower federal employees’ benefits. Coleman noted the White House is awaiting a report from OPM to ensure it maximizes the number of feds earning at least $15 per hour and said the proposed 2.7% across-the-board pay increase recognized “the meaningful work performed by employees to better our nation.”

“The administration values the federal workforce and is committed to having the executive branch be the employer of choice,” Coleman said. “We understand the vital role that decent pay plays in the lives of our employees.” 

Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., who sits on the House Appropriations Committee and also spoke at the NARFE conference, said the Biden-backed pay raise appears on track in Congress. 

“We seem to have consent across the board for that 2.7% and that’s what is going to be included in our appropriations bills coming out of the House and I think the Senate is going to do the same,” Wexton said. “So I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s panel that oversees federal pay bump decisions, said that he is “fighting for a strong pay raise” for civil servants and that Biden’s proposal was a “breath of fresh air” after years of Trump proposing a freeze or smaller increases.

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