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Originally published Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Obama may need to hire thousands to fill jobs

President Obama's $3.6 trillion budget, with vast new spending on health care, energy independence, education and services for veterans, probably will require hiring thousands of new federal government workers.

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — President Obama's $3.6 trillion budget, with vast new spending on health care, energy independence, education and services for veterans, probably will require hiring thousands of new federal government workers.

Obama inherited a federal work force of about 2 million that Paul Light, public-service professor at New York University, described as woefully understaffed, especially to fulfill his bold domestic agenda.

He predicted Obama's budget and the $787 billion economic-recovery package could require an additional 100,000 federal workers, but he warned the number may be even higher.

The conservative Heritage Foundation said it is likely to be closer to a quarter-million.

White House budget director Peter Orszag said "in several key areas — from properly auditing contracts to providing quality medical care to veterans and reducing errors in Medicare and other programs — investing in skilled professionals will not only pay off over time, but also immediately deliver better service to taxpayers."

Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs, for instance, said they expect to hire more than 17,000 new employees by the end of the year, many at hospitals and other facilities to fulfill Obama's pledge to expand veterans' access to health care. The agency — whose budget will grow by 11 percent, to $56 billion, under Obama's plan — will add about 7,900 nurses, 3,300 doctors, 3,800 clerks and 2,400 practical nurses, spokeswoman Josephine Schuda said.

Between 1940 and 1970, the federal civilian work force swelled from 707,000 to 2.1 million, according to government statistics provided by Stier. But ever since Ronald Reagan swept into the White House in 1981 with a call to decrease the government's footprint, presidents have limited the size of the work force.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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