To have the most efficient and effective federal government possible, our nation must be able to recruit and retain a strong federal workforce – both in Washington, D.C., and across the nation. When unique economic situations strike, causing upheaval in local and regional employment markets, federal workforce leaders must have the tools they need to maintain an effective workforce.
The Bakken region of western North Dakota and eastern Montana represents one of these unique situations, as it has experienced tremendous economic growth the past several years due to new energy production. This growth has provided strong job development and economic opportunity for many in the region, but has also led to dramatic increases in private sector wages and the cost of living in the area. As such, many federal agencies have struggled to recruit and retain critical employees because they leave for higher paying jobs or cannot afford their housing costs. Utilizing programs such as special pay rates or recruitment and retention bonuses, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and federal agencies such as the Department of Defense have been able to protect federal workers in North Dakota and ensure they are treated fairly. However, such efforts took several years to yield positive results, causing significant hardship for federal employees and their families and negatively impacting agency productivity and efficiency.
In this hearing, we discussed if current federal employee pay system laws, regulations and policies are flexible enough to meet the challenges the federal workforce faces today and will face in the future. The example of the Bakken will not be the last time the federal workforce will have to respond to a unique economic event. It is specifically important to examine whether OPM and individual agencies have enough flexibility through locality pay, special pay rates, retention, relocation, and recruitment bonuses to meet the challenges of unique federal workforce situations. We also examined the difficulties certain agencies in remote locations face in recruiting federal workers, as an example of a unique situation that the federal workforce must be able to effectively handle. We discussed successes and failures in the current pay flexibility system and how we can work in a bipartisan manner to make improvements in the future.
Deputy Associate Director for Pay and Leave
U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Director of Civilian Force Management; Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel, and Services
Headquarters, U.S. Air Force
Assistant Commissioner, Office of Human Resources Management
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
National Federation of Federal Employees