This article written by Joe Davidson was originally published in The Washington Post, December 14, 2017.
“President Trump will propose a pay freeze for federal employees and cut domestic security programs in fiscal 2019, according to reports released by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Democrats.
“The two reports are based on budget guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, dated Nov. 28, overruling Department of Homeland Security requests. The guidance was leaked to the panel’s Democratic staff by a whistleblower. Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), the committee’s top Democrat, had the staff issue summaries of the OMB document. One report focuses on personnel, the other on counterterrorism programs.
“Although the budget documents concern DHS, the personnel summary says “OMB intends to issue a pay freeze for federal civilian employees in 2019.” Quoting the administration’s document, the staff report adds: “OMB has instructed DHS: ‘Per governmentwide guidance, no civilian pay raise is included in the recommended level for the FY 2019 Budget.’ ”
“The counterterrorism report says the administration “intends to seek $568 million in cuts to counterterrorism programs” from 2017 levels. That would include decreases in programs on violent extremism, port and public transportation security, domestic nuclear detection and emergency management grants.
“According to the staff report, OMB wants to eliminate Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams, which “are multidisciplinary groups of security officers deployed to various locations to prevent and deter acts of terrorism” and cut $27 million from Federal Air Marshals.
“‘I’m worried that the Office of Management and Budget is overriding what local, state, and national leaders have told me they most need to keep us safe,” McCaskill said. “With recent terrorist attacks in our country and throughout the globe, counterterrorism programs shouldn’t be on the chopping block.’
“The staff noted that OMB’s budget guidance does not necessarily represent the administration’s final spending plan. Agencies can appeal budget office guidance. The DHS appeal was due Dec. 1.
“Federal employees had a three-year freeze on their basic pay rates during the Obama administration. Another freeze “may present challenges for DHS components wishing to retain qualified employees. Morale and attrition within DHS have long been problems that the Department has struggled to fix,” the staff report said.
“’The absence of a pay increase for law enforcement personnel may not allow DHS to remain competitive with other law enforcement agencies with whom they compete for qualified applicants. This is especially true as DHS components have historically struggled to meet hiring mandates.'”