A study released Monday by a leading federal employees union finds government agencies could realize as much as 90 percent of the money they would need to save under massive budget cuts from contractors -- sparing federal workers.
The study, written by University of Baltimore law professor Charles Tiefer, comes as agencies, employees and contractors are bracing for $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts, known as sequestration, that will begin March 1 if Congress does not act.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which published the report, has sought to shift the focus of those cuts to contractors, even as the Obama administration has sent guidance to agencies directing managers to prepare for furloughs if sequestration takes effect. The report lays out several ways agencies can legally reduce service contracts.
"Some service contractors may be highly reluctant to reduce their costs, and they possess significant political influence," Tiefer wrote in the report. "That is why it is so important that heads of agencies provide strong leadership to contracting officers and program officials -- establishing thoughtful but ambitious goals for savings from reductions in service contract spending."
A leading contractor group, the Professional Services Council, called the union's "us versus them" argument "petty" and said in a statement that it is "no wiser to take savings exclusively from the federal workforce than it is to take the savings exclusively from contractors."
"Far from being safe or appropriate, obtaining 70 to 90 percent of the sequestration cuts from the hundreds of thousands federal contractor employees would cripple the government and devastate the economy," said PSC executive vice president and counsel Alan Chvotkin.
Furloughs or contract reductions could have a big impact on Maryland, which is home to a higher per-capita share of federal workers and government contractors than most other states.
President Obama and Republicans in the House of Representatives say they want to avoid sequestration, which was temporarily delayed last month as part of the deal to avert the "fiscal cliff." But with only weeks to go before the cuts begin, neither appears to have made significant progress toward a deal.