Senators Ask Obama to Freeze Federal Hiring Until Trump Takes Office

Two Senators have asked President Obama to freeze federal hiring during the transition between presidential administrations to combat the practice of “burrowing in” by political appointees.

Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) sent a letter today to President Obama requesting that his administration consider instituting a hiring freeze for the federal workforce until his administration leaves office. The proposed hiring freeze would exempt federal positions involving public health or safety.

The Senators made the request in an effort combat “burrowing in” by political appointees, a practice in which political appointees are kept on the federal payroll by moving them to career civil servant positions.

“Not only is ‘burrowing in’ unfair to applicants without an inside connection, it further contributes to the possibility that federal workers may attempt to undermine the policies of the new president,” wrote the Senators.

They also said in the letter that it would be unfair to existing federal workers who “faithfully serve in positions…without regard to who occupies the White House” if new employees were to be hired who may not be willing to execute the priorities of a new administration.

A copy of the letter is included below.

Dear President Obama:

We first want to state that we, like many Americans, have been encouraged by both your words and your actions to assist the president-elect with the transfer of power and to ensure that he and his administration are prepared to lead the country on day one.

Because we know that you are sincere in overseeing a smooth transition, we hope members of your administration will resist the urge to accelerate the hiring of career civil servants who may not share the priorities of the new administration. There is no doubt that thousands of dedicated civil servants faithfully serve in positions across the federal government without regard to who occupies the White House. However, it would be unfair to those employees, and to the American people, if they are joined by others who may not be willing to properly execute the policies of the new administration.

Additionally, another activity practiced by both Democratic and Republican administrations in the past is the one called “burrowing in,” when a political appointee moves in, or “converts,” to a career civil servant position. Since early 2001, more than 300 political appointees have completed this transition. Not only is “burrowing in” unfair to applicants without an inside connection, it further contributes to the possibility that federal workers may attempt to undermine the policies of the new president.

We respectfully encourage you to consider the aforementioned concerns and also consider the implementation of a hiring freeze on all career civil servant positions, except those that involve public health or safety, until the end of your term. Doing so not only will be a gesture of bipartisanship and goodwill, we hope it also will set a precedent for future presidential transitions.

Mr. President, thank you again for your dedicated service to our great nation.


Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman, Committee on Homeland and Governmental Affairs
Senator Thom Tillis

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.