President Donald Trump signed the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package for FY2018 avoiding another shutdown. The budget includes a 2.4% pay raise for military members, the largest increase in 8 years. It also contains nearly $1.6 billion for a southern border wall construction and technology.
The document is over 2,200 pages and full of small details. Here are a few that could impact the federal workforce.
A provision in the omnibus prevents agencies from using appropriations funds to conduct reductions in force using a specific piece of guidance from OPM. This guidance, finalized in 2008, allowed agencies to set up RIF competitive areas that only included pay band positions and excluded wage-grade employees or workers covered under the General Schedule.
“Competitive areas” can include all or part of an agency. Typically, these “areas consist of a group of employees with similar positions, grade-levels, and tours of duty”, and these “competitive areas” set the geographical and organizational limits for agencies to conduct a RIF.
The 2008 guidance gives agencies the option of establishing a competitive area to conduct a RIF using only pay band positions. This new budget deal basically reverses that rule or makes it much more difficult for agencies to use it when RIFing employees.
Cross-Agency Funding Flexibility
This omnibus also gives agencies some flexibility to transfer unused funds to use for broad, government-wide initiatives. Specifically, it lets agency heads transfer or reimburse the General Services Administration any funds made available during the fiscal year or rebates from charge cards and other contracts to use in support of government-wide IT modernization, procurement or financial projects, or management initiatives.
Agencies must get approval from the Office of Management and Budget. GSA will handle the transfer. Total funds for inter-agency coordination or reducing duplication can’t exceed $15 million, while the total funds for government priority goals can’t exceed $17 million.
Congress has 15 days to reject these transfers. Otherwise, agencies can move forward with these transactions on their own.
Even though about 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, departments and agencies must continue to make sure they live up to the law of the land. Agencies must “continue to administer in good faith a written policy designed to ensure all of its workplaces are free from the illegal use, possession, or distribution of controlled substances…by the officers and employees of such department, agency, or instrumentality,” the budget said.
This guidance also applies to federal contractors.
Agencies can’t use appropriations for employee training if it “does not meet identified needs for knowledge, skills, and abilities bearing directly upon the performance of official duties,” the omnibus reads.
Agencies must notify employees ahead of time of what kind of training they’ll offer and how it will be presented. Further, agencies must ensure that training isn’t offensive or designed to change their employees’ “personal values or lifestyle outside the workplace”.