Task force recc’s eliminating FERS, implementing merit-based compensation
- By Sherkiya Wedgeworth
- Feb 11, 2020
A congressional task force charged with improving government efficiency is proposing to eliminate the “simultaneously immoderate and unstable” Federal Employees' Retirement System and to make improvements to the federal government workforce.
“The Task Force commends those federal workers that approach each day as an opportunity to serve the American people but are guided by the age-old truth that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, ”the report –100+ Commonsense Solutions to a Better Government – by the Government, Efficiency, Accountability and Reform Task Force states. “With this in mind, the Task Force seeks to advance reforms that ensure that the federal government has the strongest links possible for the sake of ensuring the American people are served by an efficient and accountable government.”
The group’s recommendations includes more than 100 “common sense” solutions to address inefficiency and waste and reemphasize and reward innovation in the federal workforce.
One focus is to reign costs of the largest benefit-based expenses of the federal government, the federal pension system, which the report describes as immoderate, unstable and a burden.
According to the report, feds receive about 14 percent in retirement benefits (which requires a low rate of error based compared to just 3 percent for private sector employees.
“The authors of the report strongly disagree with the current retirement structure,” the report states, adding that instead, FERS should be enhanced to a Thrift Savings Plan-only system.
Federal employees currently also receive the 401k-style TSP retirement benefit, but it makes up a much smaller portion piece of the retirement package.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, in 2016, these benefits cost taxpayers $91 billion, with $83 billion for federal pensions and, $8 billion for TSP contributions.
“The GEAR Task Force supports a phase-out of the FERS system for future federal hires, eventually offering an enhanced TSP-only system in its place,” the authors write. “This would raise the base federal TSP contribution as well as the cap on federal matches.”
“By having a higher contribution threshold with an increased benefit option, employees will one-day invest more personally in their savings and have a more transparent view of their personal responsibility in saving for retirement,” they add.
In addition, the report urged merit-based compensation similar to that of the private sector employment industry, and a more streamline hiring process.
The task force is urging support of the MERIT Act, which would shorten the timeframe to remove a bad employee to 30 days. It currently takes over 300 days to remove a toxic federal worker.
“By eliminating the red tape that exists when taking adverse actions against a bad actor in the federal ‘government and allowing for senior executives to be removed rather than demoted, the MERIT Act offers a framework much closer to the efficiency and rigor found in the private sector,” the report notes.
The bill also gives leaders authority to recoup bonuses paid to employees who were later found to have committed workplace violations.
Another effort is to limit the retirement compensation awarded to a federal employee removed for committing a felony in abuse of their official duties.
Bureaucracy often “laughably def[ies] common sense,” and the task force’s goal is to reevaluate status quo.
“Under current law, agencies may indefinitely suspend without pay an individual who committed a serious crime, while their removal is processed,” the report notes.
View the full report with its recommendations to improvement to the federal workforce here.