Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Technology helps shrink size of government, literally

With the lowest government employees-to-citizens ratio in a long time, it seems investment in labor-reducing technology is paying off in the federal sector.

The WaPo article explains that each worker today serves far more people than at any period since the 1950s: “Relative to the private sector, the Federal workforce is less than half the size it was back in the 1950s and 1960s. The picture that emerges is one of a Federal civilian workforce whose size has significantly shrunk compared to the size of the overall U.S. population, the private sector workforce and the size of Federal expenditures.”

The article reprints from the budget that “aggressive actions” have been used to reduce staff, “Some agencies have imposed hiring freezes, others are using replacement ratios to allow fewer hires than separations, and many are offering early retirement and separation incentives. Across the Government, agencies are embracing a variety of workforce reduction tools to bring their personnel levels down.”

Still, diverting federal funds from just plain old bureaucracy support to basic research yields benefits. How can the United States foster long-term economic growth? A 2010 report suggests that one of the best ways is through investment in the basic research that leads to innovation and job creation. "Sparking Economic Growth: How federally funded university research creates innovation, new companies and jobs" released today by The Science Coalition identifies 100 "success stories" – examples of companies that are the result of federal investments in basic research. Collectively, these 100 companies employ well over 100,000 people and have annual revenues approaching $100 billion. The companies also are helping to address critical issues in the area of medicine, technology, energy, environment and national security – leading the way toward a healthier, more sustainable and secure future.

"There is no question that the public benefit gained from funding basic research is exponentially greater than the initial investment," said Susan Desmond-Hellmann, Chancellor of University of California San Francisco. "The success stories highlighted in this report demonstrate that fact and are a reminder that the continued scientific and technological leadership of the United States – and our economic well-being – depends on consistent, strong funding for research."

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