107 Democratic members of the House of Representatives have sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump asking that he reconsider plans to impose a federal hiring freeze upon taking office on January 20.
The letter cites the following reasons for not imposing a hiring freeze:
- Hiring freezes implemented by previous Democratic and Republican administrations did not result in a smaller federal workforce, but decreased efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
- A hiring freeze would “exacerbate the serious workforce skills challenges facing a federal government that must address a variety of evolving 21st Century issues including cybersecurity, terrorism, consumer safety, and environmental threats.”
- A hiring freeze would stretch thin “a dedicated federal workforce” whose employment levels has remained stagnant over the past several decades.
The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) has announced its support for the letter, and its opposition to the expected freeze.
Some federal agencies are not waiting to see if the hiring freeze will be implemented.
The Washington Post and other sources are reporting that federal agencies are rushing to fill vacant positions prior to the arrival of the new Administration.
The Post article specifically lists the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and parts of the Agriculture and Labor departments as being among the agencies looking to fill slots before January 20.
For the new hires in these agencies, even without a hiring freeze, their federal careers may be short-lived if these agencies suffer budget cuts that result in staff reductions, which are likely in some agencies.
In November, at the request of the Trump transition team, Congress passed only a stop-gap spending bill that will expire March 31.
This gives the new Administration an opportunity to not only shape the fiscal year 2018 budget but to also affect agency budgets for the balance of the 2017 fiscal year.
Most federal government employees are put on probationary employment for a one year period from the date of hire. During that time, they are still technically considered an applicant for employment and do not have the same protections against adverse workplace actions as other employees who are protected by the Federal merit system.
Adding new staff just before a change in Administrations complicates the transition but can be reversed over the next six months, as the new political appointees assess agency needs and determine if their agencies are understaffed or overstaffed based on expected increases or decreases in workload.
With or without a hiring freeze, job applicants and new federal employees are becoming political pawns in a faceoff between Democrats and Republicans.