Trump orders federal government hiring freeze

From left, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, National Trade Council adviser Peter Navarro, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, policy adviser Stephen Miller, and chief strategist Steve Bannon watch as President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

From left, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, National Trade Council adviser Peter Navarro, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, policy adviser Stephen Miller, and chief strategist Steve Bannon watch as President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Want a job in the federal government?

Getting there might be tougher than you think. One of President Trump’s first actions in office was signing an Executive Memorandum to halt hiring in parts of the federal government.

The military is exempt from this order and can continue their hiring processes as planned. The memorandum reads, in part:

“As part of this freeze, no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances. This order does not include or apply to military personnel. The head of any executive department or agency may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.”

This means that the federal government cannot hire people to fill newly-created positions, and if a current employee leaves his or her job, the government cannot hire someone to fill the position (unless, of course, the position is necessary to keep people safe.)

In addition to the military exemption, positions requiring Presidential appointments are also exempt. President Trump will be able to nominate ambassadors, for example, and even his Supreme Court pick, without violating the Memorandum.

As people leave their jobs and retire, the government will shrink – without having to fire a single employee. Retirements will likely count for much of the attrition in government: The average federal employee stays with the government for 13.7 years, and the average age of non-seasonal permanent federal employees is 47.4. Millennials are underrepresented in the federal workforce.

The federal government is not the largest it’s ever been – something similar happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the workforce was roughly 3 million people. However, the government still had over 2.7 million non-military employees in 2014. That’s roughly equivalent to the population of the city of Chicago.

If you still want to work with the federal government, all is not lost. For starters, the freeze does not apply to necessary national security and public safety positions. If you studied one or both of those topics, your odds are improved. Second, hiring freezes are by definition temporary. Both President Reagan and President Carter used freezes like this one to slow the growth of the government bureaucracy.

More importantly, a freeze on federal hiring doesn’t mean a freeze on federal work or on federal spending. That means that the federal contracting business is about to boom. Federal employees are more expensive than private sector workers; bureaucrats not only have salaries above the market rate, but their taxpayer-funded benefits are far pricier than what private enterprise offers. We, the taxpayers, are about to get government work done at a relative discount compared to what we’ve been paying over the past few years. The point is not to shortchange workers, but to pay them the fair market rate instead of artificially inflated wages.

The largest federal employees’ union, American Federation of Government Employees, knows this all too well – and they’re not pleased. The union predicts calamity:

“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.”

Can small government still be effective government, or is the federal freakout truly warranted? Conservatives say that small government is even more effective – and certainly more efficient – than a bloated one. In an economy where everyone is learning to stretch their dollars and do more with less… shouldn’t the “public service” sector do the same?


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