Chairman Gary Peters
Ranking Member Rob Portman
Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs
340 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
RE: Professional Managers Association Letter Re: February 2, 2022, HSGAC Business Meeting
Dear Chairman Peters, Ranking Member Portman, and Members of the Committee:
On behalf of the Professional Managers Association – the non-profit professional association that has, since 1981, represented professional managers, management officials, and non-bargaining unit employees at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – I write to provide feedback on several bills being marked up and nominees being considered in the Committee’s February 2, 2022, Business Meeting.
Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) Nominee
The continued lack of Board Members at the MSPB is an embarrassing mark on our merit system. The MSPB safeguards an accountable public sector for taxpayers and agencies alike. In the absence of a quorum at the MSPB, agencies are left without finality in personnel decisions, and employees and supervisors must wait years for cases to be resolved. All of this is true when the MSPB lacks a quorum. But today, not only does the MSPB lack a quorum, for over two years the MSPB has lacked any Senate-confirmed Board Members. Given recent Supreme Court decisions, this calls into question the constitutionality of the entire functionality of the Board.
Without finality in MSPB decisions, supervisors are in a state of limbo in which they cannot fill now-vacant roles because a disciplined employee may be reinstated. Given Congress’s concerns regarding the IRS’s capacity to effectively manage this filing season, it is shocking that rather than confirm Board Members to the MSPB, Congress will allow IRS supervisors to work with temporary employees who lack the skill, expertise, training, and institutional knowledge to efficiently complete their mission during the 2022 Tax Filing Season. Please keep in mind, in FY 2020, administrative judges at the MSPB affirmed agency decisions in 100 percent of Department of Treasury cases.
Once Board Members are confirmed to the MSPB, they can begin working to reduce the 3,600-case backlog. Once supervisors begin getting final decisions, they can permanently replace disciplined employees and reinstate protected employees. However, in the absence of a Board, the entire accountability system remains at a halt and the result is taxpayer waste. Reinstated employees will be entitled to significant, costly awards of backpay and other benefits which increase with each passing day – potentially, to the detriment of the IRS’s current operating budget.
The nominee before the Committee this week, Cathy A. Harris, is exceptionally well qualified and respected. PMA’s support for Harris is well documented, as is the support of stakeholders. There is no benefit to continue delaying accountability and productivity – there are only harms. We urge the Committee to advance Cathy A. Harris’s nomination.
Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) Nominees
Like the MSPB, the FLRA has lacked a Senate-confirmed General Counsel for more than four-years. Without Senate-confirmed counsel, the FLRA is severely hamstrung and unable to effectively hear and resolve labor disputes. Additionally, as chief executive, the Biden Administration has a constitutional right to see their nominees serve on the statutorily bipartisan board. Instead, the slow rolling of the FLRA Board nominees leaves the Administration with President Trump’s holdover appointments.
PMA strongly supports the advancement of Kurt T. Rumsfeld to be the FLRA General Counsel and the Honorable Susan T. Grundmann and the Honorable Ernest W. DuBester to be Members of the FLRA. These nominees have the federal sector experience and qualifications to fill these important roles.
Honoring Civil Servants Killed in the Line of Duty Act (S. 3487)
The Honoring Civil Servants Killed in the Line of Duty Act is a bill of salient importance to PMA. This month marks 12 years since a disgruntled taxpayer intentionally crashed his small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, resulting in the tragic death of IRS manager Vernon Hunter and many injuries. IRS employees are often a target for anger against our government generally. This issue is exacerbated by negative rhetoric directed at the IRS as employees struggle to provide adequate taxpayer assistance without the necessary resources and personnel.
No federal employee deserves to feel unsafe because of their service to the American people. This legislation appropriately recognizes the very real dangers of federal employment and honors employees killed in the line of duty by providing survivors comfort in their grief. As federal employees around the country and world dutifully serve regardless of polarizing and damaging political rhetoric against them, we urge the Committee to advance S. 3487 to properly acknowledge employees’ sacrifices.
Chance to Compete Act (S. 3424)
Hiring practices across the federal government are in desperate need of modernization to focus on the skills prospective employees may bring to an agency. Many individuals, either without college degrees or with college degrees that do not reflect their current skills set, are eager to lend their talents to the missions of federal agencies. At a time when the talent market is so competitive and the need for high performing talent in government is so dire, it does not make sense to dismiss applicants based on archaic procedures.
The Chance to Compete Act appropriately allows agencies to focus on the most important aspect of selecting talent – the skills, abilities, and competencies the prospective employee has. This bill looks to best practices in the private sector for acquiring talent and assisting employers in building talent pipelines. This legislation would make federal hiring more fair and more competitive, while also offering the promise to save the government millions of dollars by allowing agencies to share information about viable candidates for public service employment. PMA urges advancement of this legislation to ensure agencies are using the best tools to recruit America’s public servants.
We thank the Committee for its attention on these four important issues for federal employees and the American people. Each of these nominees and legislative initiatives are of critical importance for the effective functioning of our government. Please contact PMA Washington Representative Natalia Castro (firstname.lastname@example.org) if we can be of further assistance.