Some pundits have claimed that Obama plans on adding a ±250,000 jobs to the federal government alone. I, too, am looking for a job in the federal government. Everyone tells me to apply for federal jobs becuase they are very safe, and it is very hard to get fired from these jobs.
A friend of mine told me you would really need to screw up your job to get the ax: something like selling narcotics out of your office, doing needles in plain view, sleeping and/or drinking on the job, and even then that doesn't mean you will necessarily be fired. My friend is on the way to earning an offer as a federal auditor and is looking forward to a 35 hour work week in Chicago (down from working 80-90 hours a week in the private sector at 4x the pay in New York). He also believes that most public employes (federal, state, local) only work 35 hours a week, and are generally lazy and incompetent, which is not correct. He lived a block from the UN and had worse complaints about the UN employees.
After reading up on a few other blogs, part of the reason why it is so difficult to fire federal employess is the legal process, which is often established through the federal courts. This dragged out process can sometimes take a year or more to get rid of an employee. It's just easier to keep them on board and hope the employee will improve. Unlike every other municipal, regional, and state government, the federal government doesn't need to play down the deficit and national debt (it can just rack up more debt and print more money).
Personally, I think you can find incompetent, competent, and hard-working employees anywhere, public or private sector. In past downturns, municipal, regional, and state jobs were considered pretty safe jobs, and that isn't the case in this recession. Everyone has to work harder and smarter to save their jobs and prepare for worst-case scenarios. I've worked in the private sector for 4 years now, and 2-3 years in the public sector before that, and it was always drilled into my skull to put in 200% no matter what the economy is like. It is discouraging to hear of some of the waste going on in the federal sector.
I think there needs to be an overhaul of the federal sector. I don't think benefits need to be cut back yet (that's one of the perks of a federal job in lieu of higher industry pay in the private sector). However, I think more of an effort should be made to lean government staff and keep only the most productive people employed. If everyone else is doing it, why can't the federal government? If anything, it will free up expenditures and lessen the tab on the deficit, however neglible.
Hopefully, those of you in federal jobs will cast some light into this.