The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Monday ordered an across-the-board employment freeze for the federal government, halting hiring for all new and existing positions except those in national security, public safety and the military.
In the two-page order, Mr. Trump said the directive was a stopgap way to control the growth of government until his budget director recommends a long-term plan to significantly reduce the federal work force through attrition.
“In carrying out this memorandum, I ask that you seek efficient use of existing personnel and funds to improve public services and the delivery of these services,” Mr. Trump wrote in the memorandum, one of his first acts as president. “Accordingly, this memorandum does not prohibit making reallocations to meet the highest priority needs and to ensure that essential services are not interrupted and national security is not affected.”
The largest public employees union blasted the president’s action, saying it will force federal agencies to rely on more expensive contractors to deliver the services that Americans have come to expect from the government.
“This hiring freeze will mean longer lines at Social Security offices, fewer workplace safety inspections, less oversight of environmental polluters and greater risk to our nation’s food supply and clean water systems,” said J. David Cox Sr., the president of the group, the American Federation of Government Employees.
Mr. Trump’s memorandum addressed that point directly by saying that “contracting outside the government to circumvent the intent of this memorandum shall not be permitted.”
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said on Monday that the president’s decision to freeze hiring was the result of a desire to show greater care for taxpayers’ money.
“What the president’s showing through the hiring freeze, first and foremost today, is that we’ve got to respect the American taxpayer,” he told reporters in his first briefing at the White House.
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“Some people are working two, three jobs just to get by. And to see money get wasted in Washington on a job that is duplicative is insulting to the hard work that they do to pay their taxes,” Mr. Spicer said.
The decision to freeze hiring has precedents in American presidential history.
In 1981, Ronald Reagan issued a similar hiring freeze within minutes of finishing his inaugural address, making good on a promise that he had made throughout his campaign against President Jimmy Carter.
Mr. Reagan’s freeze went further than Mr. Carter’s decision to allow only one federal employee to be hired for every two that departed government service. In February of that year, a federal judge ruled against a challenge to the freeze, saying that it was neither unconstitutional nor illegal.
“This begins the process of restoring our economic strength and returning the nation to prosperity,” Mr. Reagan wrote in his 1981 memorandum putting the freeze in place.
In his own campaign, Mr. Trump had pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington, and he had repeatedly said that there was plenty of “waste, fraud and abuse” to be found in government agencies.
That campaign message put government workers and unions on notice that a freeze was possible. On Monday, Mr. Trump’s action confirmed that he intends to put pressure on agencies to justify their work forces.
The action applies only to the civilian work force in the executive branch; the Office of Personnel Management reported in 2014 that there were about 1.36 million civilian employees.
In addition to military members, Mr. Trump’s action does not affect positions that require presidential appointment or members of the noncareer Senior Executive Service, who are generally political appointees in the agencies. That will allow Mr. Trump to continue his political appointments during the next several months.
The action also allows agency heads to seek exemptions for positions that are necessary for national security or public safety, the memorandum says.
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