Yesterday it was announced that President Barack Obama will take a 5 percent pay cut to show solidarity for the thousands of federal employees who are being forced into furloughs because of sequestration. Several other Cabinet Secretaries have done the same. By all accounts, the act is symbolic but it is symbiotic of the state of affairs for public employees across the country.
As Congress and the President remain in a stalemate over the budget (although a complete budget hasn’t been approved in years), public employees have remained the scapegoat for an ineffective and inefficient budget process that has become the prisoner of partisan politics. In the Memos to National Leaders, launched and rolled out last summer and fall, ASPA and NAPA made clear that there is need for a more strategic federal budget process.
As the authors of the Memo on Strengthening the Federal Budget Process noted:
A strategic approach to budgeting requires a broader conception of what the budget is and does.
If we continue budgeting this way cutting spending or raising new revenues without a careful eye to the Nation’s long term interests and the sustainability of its commitments
we risk a period of slow growth and austerity that could cripple all efforts and threaten our position in the world. If instead we manage fiscal challenges strategically, we will be able to more effectively reallocate public and private resources to growth sustaining investments vital for long term fiscal stability.
And that’s the goal isn’t it – fiscal stability. Or at least it should be.
We expect our leaders to think strategically – at all levels. Congress and the President are not exempt. We want a strategic budget process that reflects the needs of the citizens and not just a small minority of the population. As the Memos outlined:
To make effective use of its limited public resources and to mobilize private investment to achieve its most important national objectives, the United States needs an approach to fiscal choice that is more strategic in its scope and capacity to prioritize. It needs a new, rigorous review process that analyzes the base of current resource use and alternatives using information on expected costs and returns to the economy over a long horizon.
ASPA and NAPA continuously promote good governance and improved performance management. And a central part of public administration is the people. Public employees commit to do their jobs diligently and effectively. But it’s no surprise that it is getting harder to do that as anti-government sentiments grow and public servants are blamed for wasteful spending and partisan gridlock among our elected leaders. Public servants are feeling overburdened and underappreciated.
As we prepare to celebrate Public Service Recognition Week during the first week of May (May 5-11), we challenge everyone to take a moment to thank a public servant for what they do. It is a choice to work in public service and the majority who do, chose this path because they care about their country and their communities.
So, while the country waits out the fiscal debacle between Congress and the President, remember the public servants you meet during your day at the post office, the parks, VA, HR office and everywhere. Thank them for their service and then take a step further and urge your elected official to act with conscience and thought about the real impact of policy decisions on real people.