Recent Government-Wide Hiring Freezes Prove Ineffective in Managing Federal Employment

FPCD-82-21: Published: Mar 10, 1982. Publicly Released: Apr 7, 1982.

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GAO was requested to review the effects of across-the-board hiring freezes on federal employment levels and spending and on federal agencies' ability to carry out their programs.

Government-wide hiring freezes, regardless of how well they are managed, are not an effective means of controlling federal employment. The government-wide hiring freezes had little effect on federal employment levels and it is not known whether they saved money. Because they ignored individual agencies' missions, workload, and staffing requirement, these freezes disrupted agency operations and, in some cases, increased costs to the government. Since these hiring freezes disregarded agency workload requirements and did not cover all personnel resources used by the government, they created an incentive for managers to use alternative sources of labor. Any potential savings produced by these freezes would be partially or completely offset by increasing overtime, contracting with private firms, or using other than full-time permanent employees. Decreased debt and revenue collections also occurred as a result of hiring freezes. Government-wide hiring freezes bear no relationship to the workload that agencies are responsible for carrying out. However, GAO recognizes that there may be unique circumstances which may be beyond an individual agency's control. GAO believes employment reduction should be targeted where it can best be absorbed. Improved workforce planning and use of the budget as a control on employment, rather than arbitrary across-the-board hiring freezes, is a more effective way to insure that the level of personnel resources is consistent with program requirements.

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