Trump’s hir­ing freeze falls flat with re­formists

Frac­tion of fed­eral jobs af­fected

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent Trump’s hir­ing freeze helped cut the size of fed­eral gov­ern­ment by about 9,000 em­ploy­ees in his first six months in of­fice, but that is just a drop in the bucket of a work­force of more than 2.8 mil­lion, and the ad­min­is­tra­tion has ended the freeze to fill mis­sion-crit­i­cal po­si­tions at agen­cies.

Mr. Trump or­dered the hir­ing freeze on his first day in of­fice and em­barked on the most am­bi­tious agenda to shrink gov­ern­ment since Ron­ald Rea­gan. His early suc­cess, although mod­est, is a tes­ta­ment to the pres­i­dent’s tenac­ity and to the daunt­ing task he has un­der­taken.

Rea­gan also im­posed a hir­ing freeze on his first day in of­fice, but the fed­eral work­force grew by more than 100,000 em­ploy­ees by the time he left of­fice eight years later.

In De­cem­ber, Pres­i­dent Obama’s last full month in of­fice, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment had more than 2.819 mil­lion em­ploy­ees. Mr. Trump cut the pay­roll to 2.81 mil­lion as of the end of July, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent em­ploy­ment re­port by the Bureau of La­bor Statis­tics.

The num­bers in­clude ac­tive­duty mil­i­tary, which make up about half of the fed­eral work­force. That makes the re­duc­tions more note­wor­thy be­cause the Pen­tagon has em­barked on a drive to hire 6,000 more re­cruits

this year as part of Mr. Trump’s mil­i­tary buildup.

Still, hir­ing freezes have few fans in gov­ern­ment re­form cir­cles.

“Hir­ing freezes are ter­ri­ble ways to re­duce the work­force — or to ac­com­plish any­thing else that’s im­por­tant. It’s a clumsy tool suited bet­ter for send­ing mes­sages than for mak­ing pol­icy changes,” said Don­ald F. Kettl, a pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion scholar at the Univer­sity of Mary­land.

“The real chance for big changes in the work­force will come with the bud­get,” he said. “That de­bate is be­ing teed up. We will get a first look with the bud­get bat­tles to come in the next two months.”

When the pres­i­dent’s bud­get di­rec­tor, Mick Mul­vaney, an­nounced the par­tial lift­ing of the freeze in early April, the fed­eral work­force was headed to­ward a low point of 2.806 mil­lion full-time em­ploy­ees. The rolls swelled by about 5,000 work­ers by the end of May, ac­cord­ing to the bureau’s data.

The orig­i­nal freeze never ap­plied across the board. Mr. Trump ex­cluded the mil­i­tary and po­si­tions deemed vi­tal to pub­lic safety and na­tional se­cu­rity.

In lift­ing the freeze, Mr. Mul­vaney said, the ad­min­is­tra­tion opted for a “more sur­gi­cal plan” to cut the work­force.

Since then, all agen­cies have com­plied with Mr. Trump’s April mem­o­ran­dum or­der­ing them to sub­mit work­force re­duc­tion plans. The plans are be­ing re­viewed and in­te­grated into the pres­i­dent’s 2019 bud­get, White House of­fi­cials said.

“We con­tinue to move for­ward with gov­ern­men­twide re­form ef­forts, and agen­cies are ac­tively work­ing to right­size and align human cap­i­tal re­sources to achieve proper and ap­pro­pri­ate agency func­tions in the most ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive man­ner,” the of­fi­cial said.

The 2018 bud­get gave a glimpse of the di­rec­tion the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is head­ing. It called for elim­i­nat­ing 24,000 full-time em­ploy­ees across 17 agen­cies.

One of the largest cuts was to the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, which would have shed 3,800 jobs, or 24 per­cent of his work­force. An­other was the In­te­rior De­part­ment with 4,100 jobs cut, or 6.3 per­cent of its em­ploy­ees.

Other de­part­ments — in­clud­ing the Pen­tagon, Home­land Se­cu­rity and Veter­ans Af­fairs — would have work­force boosts.

“The bud­get they came out with made a lot of sense and would have been a pos­i­tive step. It’s a shame the House and Se­nate haven’t given it at­ten­tion,” said Rick Man­ning, pres­i­dent of the non­par­ti­san Amer­i­cans for Lim­ited Gov­ern­ment.

Chris Ed­wards, di­rec­tor of tax pol­icy at the lib­er­tar­ian Cato In­sti­tute and au­thor of “Down­siz­ing the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment,” said Mr. Trump will need co­op­er­a­tion from Congress to sig­nif­i­cantly shrink the fed­eral work­force.

Co­op­er­a­tion from Congress, how­ever, has been a scarce com­mod­ity for the Trump White House.

“To push Congress, re­form-minded Cab­i­net sec­re­taries and the [White House Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get] should be putting ef­forts into stud­ies and data re­leases that high­light the fail­ures of fed­eral pro­grams and ex­cesses in the bu­reau­cracy,” he said. “One con­cern, how­ever, is that so many high-level agency po­si­tions have not been filled with po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees yet in or­der to drive re­forms.”

He noted that a re­cent agri­cul­ture pol­icy de­bate was driven by a 2006 Com­merce De­part­ment study that out­lined how sugar reg­u­la­tions were dam­ag­ing the U.S. econ­omy.

“It was in­flu­en­tial, and I’ve seen it cited many times,” said Mr. Ed­wards. “So while it waits for con­gres­sional ac­tions on re­forms, Trump ap­pointees in fed­eral agen­cies should be push­ing for more stud­ies, data and trans­parency that sup­port the case for re­forms of fed­eral pro­grams and poli­cies.”

A study by the Bi­par­ti­san Pol­icy Cen­ter con­firmed the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s slow pace at fill­ing crit­i­cal fed­eral agency man­age­ment jobs.

The 50 Se­nate-con­firmable po­si­tions iden­ti­fied by the cen­ter were out­side the hir­ing freeze.

While Se­nate Democrats have suc­ceeded in slow-walk­ing Mr. Trump’s nom­i­nees to con­fir­ma­tion, the pres­i­dent also has lagged be­hind his pre­de­ces­sors in the pace of nom­i­na­tions. At the same point in their first terms — the 200-day mark — Pres­i­dents Ge­orge W. Bush and Barack Obama had nom­i­nated peo­ple for more than 75 per­cent of the crit­i­cal po­si­tions, com­pared with 57 per­cent so far for Mr. Trump, the study found.

“You have to have your po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees in place to make sure the agen­cies do what you say,” said Mr. Man­ning of Amer­i­cans for Lim­ited Gov­ern­ment. “It is still like turn­ing a bat­tle­ship. But with­out your po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees in place, there is no one turn­ing the rud­der.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.