Chris Edwards, who works on the Cato Institute Downsizing the Federal Government Project, recently released some interesting data, as a part of that project. As he points out, one of the more interesting findings in the data is that, in spite of the controversy, it seems the Veterans Administration has actually added 100,000 workers in the last 7 years. The "we're understaffed" counter from VA apologists seems to ignore the facts of the situation.
Of equal interest, is Edwards' massaging of more comprehensive data from the federal Office of Personnel Management. In his Figure 1 (reprinted below), he broke total federal employment into two broad categories, Defense and Nondefense:
This shows a not-very surprising shift, following the "end of the Cold War", from defense employment to civilian employment. It also shows a short period of non-defense "retrenchment", as Edwards calls it, during the Reagan and Clinton years then pretty steady expansions under both President Bushes and President Obama.
In his Figure 2 (again reprinted below), Edwards show federal civilian employment by department.The fastest and deepest increases were in Homeland Security following the attacks of 9/11 AND the Veterans Administration. Edwards also notes, with concern, the growth in Justice...doubling since the late '80s even though crime has been on the decline.
What I find most interesting here is the inescapable conclusion that federal, civilian employment continues an inexorable climb, notwithstanding economic downturns or changes in demand for services.
The issue, in my mind, then shifts to the costs associated with these employees. As to that, there is a very interesting recent study, which I plan to discuss at some length in a future post. For now, suffice it to say that multiple studies conclude that the "total compensation premium" (the ratio by which federal pays exceed private sector pays considering both pay and benefits) ranges between 16% and 61%, depending upon the study. When Edwards' data is considered in conjunction with this pay premium it's obviously time for a shake-up in government employment practices.