Growing The Government One Hire At A Time

Last Updated Sep 4, 2009 6:43 AM EDT

The major cost of government today at all levels is personnel. This is even true of the defense budget and the military. People cost a great deal in salaries and benefits. Their dependents and families do as well. The size of the Federal, State and local governments in the United States has been growing steadily over the last twenty years. True it is not as large as during World War II the peak of Federal employment but still it is growing and with Obama being elected it probably will continue.

It has already become clear that the unemployment rate would be even higher except that government has hired over 100,000 people in the last year or so. States are using the "Stimulus" funds to add jobs or keep current ones going that would have to be eliminated due to lack of revenue. Some places have had to make cuts like California or Rhode Island where they just announced one thousand layoffs after the proposed twelve day furlough was prevented by a State Supreme Court justice. In Maryland as well judges have ruled that the contracts with some county workers do not allow furloughs so it will probably end up with layoffs.

Now the Project for Public Service a private lobbying group to support Federal workforce and workers came out with a new report saying that Obama's plans and trends in age and retirement will require a new 600,000 hires over the next four years. Interestingly only 270,000 of these are considered "mission-critical". This of course makes those poor people in the private sector wonder what a non-mission-critical job is?

Part of this large number is driven by the supposed planned retirement of thousands of older workers. The Government has been worrying about this for the last twenty years and it never seems to materialize. It used to be the average Federal employee could retire at 55. Now that has slowly increased based on when you were hired. The newer employees cannot do so until 57 or 59. Most people do not retire at 55 which is one of the reasons the wave of retirements don't happen. They work a few more years to increase the size of their retirement and the trend in the U.S. anyway has been for people to work longer then they use to.

The rest of the jobs are in areas that will see growth due to current military operations and the economic problems that are going on. The Veteran's Administration will need to hire more medical personnel to treat the increasing number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. There will have to be more administrative people to process their care and so on.

The Defense Department will also be hiring as it needs more people in the intelligence mission. The movement away from contractors will increase jobs there as well. Obama and Gate's want to create over 20,000 acquisition related jobs that are currently being done by contractors. Some other functions will be done now by civil servants rather then contractors in logistics and planning.

The Federal Government is already pretty large and is involved in many aspects of American life and economy. A massive expansion of this size would be fairly unprecedented since the Great Depression and World War II. True one solution to the unemployment problem would be just to have the government hire everyone but that probably wouldn't help cure accusations that Obama is a socialist or anything. There is also a good argument to be made that the government does need to increase the workforce in targeted areas but it is really hard to justify an increase of this size. The cost of hiring 100,000 workers even if they are relatively low levels is in the billions of dollars once all costs are taken into account.

This may not be the best plan for the country right now.

  • Matthew Potter

    Matthew Potter is a resident of Huntsville, Ala., where he works supporting U.S. Army aviation programs. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he began work as a defense contractor in Washington D.C. specializing in program management and budget development and execution. In the last 15 years Matthew has worked for several companies, large and small, involved in all aspects of government contracting and procurement. He holds two degrees in history as well as studying at the Defense Acquisition University. He has written for Seeking Alpha and at his own website,