The U.S. Forest Service on Monday posted help-wanted ads for a few good men and women to work as “recreation aides” this summer, the Internal Revenue Service advertised for an office secretary in Maryland, the U.S. Mint wanted 24 people to help press coins, and the Agriculture Department said it needs three “insect production workers” to help grow bollworms in Phoenix.
Monday marked the first regular workday under sequestration, and federal agencies posted more than 400 job ads by 6 p.m.
At a time when nearly all of those agencies are contemplating furloughs, the help-wanted ads raised questions about how agencies should decide between saving through attrition or letting people go.
“Every position you don’t fill that isn’t absolutely necessary is one less person that needs to be furloughed,” said Steve Ellis, vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense — though he said some positions that people leave need to be filled in order to meet agencies’ core missions.
“When you say mission critical, it’s a phrase without meaning,” he said. “Everything’s mission critical. Therefore, we have no way of knowing what would be mission critical in a job description versus what is not.”
He said agencies become “very artful” in writing job descriptions to justify why they are hiring.
At the Homeland Security Department, which just days ago announced it was releasing some low-priority illegal immigrants from jails to await removal, the agency in charge of deportations advertised for an assistant to help with deportations.
The annual salary for the job is $60,765, enough to detain one immigrant for about 500 days.
An official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency is filling only mission-critical positions and may not end up hiring for every job it advertises.
The sequesters — $85 billion in spending cuts — were set into motion by the 2011 debt deal and imposed across-the-board cuts to most federal agencies. Social Security was spared, and other big entitlements such as Medicare face only minor trims.
Homeland Security officials warned that they would have to furlough airport screeners, and the Defense Department has canceled deployment of a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region to save money.
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