A new executive order seeks to make it easier for the president to hire and fire career civil servants.
“President Trump signed an executive order this week that could substantially expand his ability to hire and fire tens of thousands of federal workers during a second term, potentially allowing him to weed out what he sees as a “deep state” bureaucracy working to undermine him.
The executive order, issued late Wednesday and described by one prominent federal union leader as ‘the most profound undermining of the Civil Service in our lifetimes,’ would allow federal agencies to go through their employee rosters and reclassify certain workers in a way that would strip them of job protections that now cover most federal employees.
The White House, in a statement that accompanied the executive order, said the new employee classification was justified because under current rules ‘removing poor performers, even from these critical positions, is time-consuming and difficult.’
As a practical matter, the new order is unlikely to have a widespread effect unless Mr. Trump is re-elected, giving him a second term to carry out the new approach across the government. Should he be defeated by his Democratic opponent, former Vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr., the new president could simply rescind it.
Currently, only about 4,000 of the more than 2 million federal employees are so-called political appointees, who are typically replaced with each presidential administration. They include senior agency officials who oversee the development of federal policies.
The bulk of federal workers are considered career civil servants, who have certain protections both in the way they are hired — typically based on a point system that is supposed to make the hiring competitive — and a time-consuming, appeals-based process that must be used if an agency manager wants to dismiss someone.
Federal auditors have long complained that the process of removing substandard federal workers is too complicated and slow. The Government Accountability Office concluded in one 2015 report, for example, that ‘legal issues can also reduce a supervisor’s willingness to address poor performance.’
Mr. Trump’s new executive order would create a new class of federal worker, known as ‘Schedule F’ employees, that would be made up of career staff members who are involved in ‘confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating’ work.
This would most likely include the thousands of federal employees who write the regulations that translate federal laws into formal rules, as well as economists, scientists, lawyers and managers, according to labor lawyers who have examined the new order.”
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