Personnel Ceilings:

A Barrier to Effective Manpower Management

FPCD-76-88: Published: Jun 2, 1977. Publicly Released: Jun 2, 1977.

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Many Government officials are dissatisfied with personnel ceilings which provide little incentive for improved management and frustrate effective manpower management. Personnel ceilings affect Government agencies in several ways: services to the public and other agencies are reduced; essential work is deferred or cancelled and work backlogs are increased; imbalances between clerical and professional staff and shortages in certain skills occur; and managers become more concerned with the number of persons employed on one particular day than with getting essential work done effectively. If agencies cannot directly hire enough people to accomplish programs, they must pay employees overtime or obtain the services of private firms and others, people not included in employment ceilings but paid from Federal funds. Emphasis on limiting the number of persons on the Federal payroll may obscure the reality that the Government incurs the cost of all manpower resources devoted to Federal programs, even though many of the people are not on the Federal payroll.

Personnel ceilings are at best an inferior substitute for effective management. Funding or program limitations actually control the number of persons Federal agencies can employ. The basic framework for a practical and effective alternative to yearend personnel ceilings already exists and is in operation in the budget process. What is lacking is confidence in the soundness of the estimates prepared and submitted by the agencies and the ability and reliability of agency managers to adhere to their estimates. Since the budget process takes place every year, and budget examiners and congressional committees and subcommittees monitor agency activities during the year, agency managers would have a hard time deviating substantially from their estimates without approval.

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