U.S. President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday issued a controversial Executive Order to add a new, sixth classification for federal civil service employees to be able to fire those in policy-making or advising positions for poor performance or not following orders.
The move gives their managers in the Office of Personnel Management until Jan. 19, 2021, the day before the next presidential term, to list which of their employees should be recategorized under the new Schedule F, which would also strip them of many of the rights they enjoy that makes it nearly impossible to quickly fire an employee not doing the job correctly. Indeed, these workers could be fired immediately (just like the rest of Americans.)
The Schedule F would apply to federal employees serving in confidential, policy-determining, policymaking, or policy-advocating positions that don’t change when a presidential transition occurs. However, the rule exempts members of the Senior Executive Service, which is the elite arm of federal lifers.
“President Trump is delivering on his promise to make Washington accountable again to the citizens it’s meant to serve,” Russ Vought, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told The Daily Signal in a statement. “This much-needed reform will increase accountability in essential policymaking positions within the government.”
This move is a follow-up to President Trump’s 2018 Executive Order 13839, which was challenged in the courts and ultimately survived. That EO streamlined the process to review, suspend and fire a federal employee, who would otherwise be able to hang on to a job for months or years after being found to be a poor performer or otherwise not carrying out their duties faithfully.
Both moves are to update the 1883 Templeton Act that created laws to help carry over subject experts from one Presidential Administration to the next, but has not been updated to reflect the current difficulty — namely, that holdovers with the allegiance to the prior occupant of the White House were not doing the job, on purpose, to damage President Trump. That was updated in an Executive Order by President John F. Kennedy and in The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978
Federal labor unions on Thursday were livid at the Executive Order, but, in a more honest analysis, one longtime federal employee watcher thought that rather than politicize the workforce, it would help keep it honest.
Referring to the immediate AFGE union objections, federal human resources expert Ralph Smith on Thursday wrote:
“They will do this without any apparent sense of irony as they use their money and resources in the current election to elect Democrats to Congress and the White House. Should Democrats win the White House and Congress, the power and influence of the unions will increase. Should Republicans win, their power and influence will be diminished.”
“In other words, they will use their position in the federal government to elect their political allies while decrying attempts by the Republicans to ‘politicize’ the workforce with this Executive Order or other actions that may work to reduce the influence of federal employee unions.”
“Perhaps the biggest surprise is that it has taken a Republican president until 2019 to seek to make changes such as those outlined in the Executive Order. The federal civil service has been politicized, as least insofar as the elected union representatives speaking on behalf of federal employees and taking public actions in support of one political party.”