Oral testimony of Carolyn Federoff

before the Senate Authorizing Subcommittee July 24, 2002


-       Thank you for inviting us to speak for HUD’s career bargaining unit employees.  I also wish to thank my fellow panelists:  we appreciate the Deputy Secretary’s willingness to meet with us regularly to discuss employee concerns; and we thank Mr. Czerwinski and other GAO investigators for focusing on how HUD can be better.

-       My written testimony is a detailed look at HUD’s Human Capital management issues and its oversight of contractors.  My oral testimony though is more pointed.

-       Employees have been concerned for a long time with our designation by GAO as high risk.  But even without this designation, we would be concerned for the long-term viability of HUD programs.

-       We believe that no administration can resolve these issues without the sustained support of Congress.

-       HUD programs are largely bricks and mortar—long-term investments.  This is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the challenges facing HUD.  The programs Congress creates have a life span greater than the average employee’s career.  Section 202 developments built today will still be operating with HUD mortgages in 2040.  Furthermore, the nature of development is such that problems are likely to arise either at the very beginning of a development’s life span, or at the end.

-       Therefore, staff continuity, the sharing of institutional memory, is crucial to effective problem solving.

-       All American employers are facing the loss of staff with the impending retirement of the Baby Boom generation.  But for HUD, this problem will be a crisis.

-       Currently, HUD only fills vacancies after they occur, frequently months or even years after a seasoned employee has left.  In our written testimony, we recommend no reduction in HUD’s staffing ceiling.  But the truth is, if 4500 HUD employees are eligible to retire in the next five years, we need to hire 2000 employees within the next two years.  Hiring this staff now will permit mentoring and a transfer of knowledge.  We cannot replace journey level staff with entry-level staff.

-       This is a task no administration can accomplish without Congressional support. 

-       As stewards of the public trust, we do not want to hear “it can’t be done,” or “we have deficit budgets.”  It can be done.  The money is already being spent—spent on contractors.  With the knowledge, and sometimes the express approval of Congress, HUD spends more on contractors than it would cost to hire HUD employees.  The Section 8 Contract Administration contracts alone would cover 2500 additional staff.  These contracts replace the need for less than half that number of staff.  And this is only one example of the many wasteful contracts. 

-       We need you to stop working with HUD to play smoke and mirrors with the budget. 

-       Our written testimony includes recommendations that would assist recruitment and retention—use of retention programs such as a loan-forgiveness program and child care subsidy; extend permanent positions to its interns; reform its overly bureaucratic human resources department—but these are all band aids.  They will make HUD a better place to work for the workers that remain. 

-       But we need more than band-aids.  We need whole blood; we need staff, and we need them now. 

-       Congress can make the difference between the long-term successes of the programs it authorizes, or it can assist in their failure.

-       Thank you.