I recently had the opportunity to listen to Steve Lenkart address a room full of federal service retirees and his message to them should be of the greatest concern for us all.
Steve has spent the last thirty years in and around the federal government with a specific focus on workforce policy. Among his many roles (not rolls, Mr. President), Steve served as the Executive Director of the Merit Systems Protection Board, to name just one. Steve is also running for president of NARFE.
NARFE stands for National Active and Retired Federal Employees and is an organization that has been at the forefront in the fight to protect the earned benefits of federal employees both active and retired since its inception way back in 1921.
Steve’s presentation was extremely informative and disturbing as well, as it shed light on the threat faced by federal employees from the current administration and Congress.
What should also be noted is that any threat to federal government employees impacts the effectiveness and efficiency of the running of our government and that impacts every American.
The current administration has not made any attempt to hide its disdain for the federal government. They’ve determined that the best way to dismantle the current government is to place in charge of various federal departments and agencies individuals who have a history of opposing them: Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, Mick Mulvaney at the Consumer Financial Protection Board, Rick Perry at the Department of Energy, and Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education are all examples that come immediately to mind.
The other surefire way to dismantle federal agencies is to underfund them so that they are doomed to ineffectiveness and inefficiency. The federal budget is a poster child for just this attack on the federal government and those of us who have served, are continuing to serve, and who would hope to serve in the future.
In Steve Lenkart’s own words: “Active and retired federal and postal employees will face many challenges to the financial security and health care benefits that we enjoy today. Within the last year alone, budget discussions between the White House and Congress proposed cutting at least $149 billion from federal retirement over the next 10 years. This massive cut proposes to eliminate the FERS (Federal Employees Retirement System) annuity supplement, employ ‘high five’ instead of ‘high three’ salary years for retirement calculations, and increase contributions by one percent for each of the next six years. Earned benefits for current retirees take an enormous hit because the proposed budget would eliminate cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for FERS retirees and significantly reduce COLA for CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System) retirees. It is estimated that under this scenario, federal pensions may lose between 33 percent to 60 percent of value in 20 years, meaning each $100 in pension dollars today would only be worth $67 to $40.”
The Republican Study Commission in conjunction with the White House is even more disconcerting as its attack on pay and benefits hovers around $300 billion over the next 10 years and includes targeting COLAs, pay, step increases, health benefits, G fund, reducing sick and annual leave and just about everything else there is to look at.
Combine this with the rollback of civil service protections such as due process and whistleblower protections, the almost daily attacks of career federal employees by both the president and Congress, and we have quite a looming disaster to deal with.
What a way to build an effective federal government workforce, a workforce that effectively serves all Americans and one not dedicated to the profit motive! I think not!
So, how do we combat this looming threat to our federal government as a whole and the so-many individuals who have served, are serving and will serve in the future? Well, according to Steve Lenkart we must mobilize. We must use our numbers and raise our voices.
That is where NARFE comes into play under the leadership of individuals such as Steve Lenkart. Empowering all members to spread the word beyond just membership and beyond just Maryland, outreach to local businesses and other organizations to join the effort, providing training to ensure the messages are spread in the most effective manner are just a few actions easily accomplished.
I decided to write this column and use my platform at the Sentinel to reach the many “feds” living and working right here in Montgomery County. I hope they use whatever platform they may have to continue spreading the message are far and as wide as possible.