Trump’s Hiring Freeze: How Significant Is It?

The federal hiring freeze announced this week led to a strong initial outcry, but news reports have since been surfacing which suggest it may not be as bad as it first sounded.

News has been swirling around the federal community this week about the federal hiring freeze imposed by the Trump administration.

Immediately after it was announced, federal employee unions and a number of lawmakers decried the move, saying it would be harmful to the federal workforce and to American taxpayers.

However, now that the public has had a couple of days to digest the news, reports are starting to sound more fact based and less driven by emotion.

Politico reported that the hiring freeze was primarily of “symbolic” value, and noted that experts they interviewed said that the hiring freeze won’t actually do a lot.

Politico quoted Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University who said that the memo announcing the hiring freeze includes “large holes” such as exempting military personnel and exempting jobs done by employees required to meet national security responsibilities (with no specifics as to what these are), not to mention that any major federal personnel changes made must go through Congress.

The Daily Signal reported that realistically, the hiring freeze has the potential to impact roughly 10,000 to 20,000 federal employees who would either be delayed in getting hired or ultimately not go into federal jobs that they otherwise might have. While this sounds like a large number, the article also pointed out that this is out of a total of 4 million civilian and military employees.

Human resources expert and author Jeff Neal, who runs the blog, said that the hiring freeze “is not the hardest freeze I have seen.” Among other things, Neal noted that it is not retroactive and doesn’t apply to political appointees.

He also points out that while there is clearly intent to reduce the size of the federal workforce, the freeze itself likely will not go on indefinitely since it instructs OPM and OMB to come up with a plan within 90 days to cut the federal workforce through attrition. On this point, however, Neal said it calls several things into question, namely what such a plan might look like and how the reductions would be enacted. This will not be known if and until such a plan is implemented.

Others have said that to really enact meaningful personnel change, rather than freeze federal hiring, it must be easier to fire federal workers. Both the House and the Senate recently reintroduced bills that would make it easier to fire VA employees for misconduct, and Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has continued a push to fire federal employees with delinquent taxes, just two examples of a desire in Congress to find ways to make it easier to remove federal employees. It is important to note, however, that these bills were just reintroduced in the new Congress and have failed to pass in the past.

As we have noted before, significant federal personnel changes require Congressional approval, and the bureaucracy moves slowly. While the hiring freeze is undoubtedly disconcerting for federal employees, it is important to keep it in perspective and not panic.

As another article from noted, “The freeze by Trump could lead to a small reduction in federal employment if open positions are left unfilled, but it probably won’t save much money or make a noticeable dent in the size of the government’s workforce.”

Do you think the hiring freeze will prove to be of great consequence? Will it help cut costs and reduce the size of the government, or is it just a symbolic gesture? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author

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.