President Donald Trump's repeated pledge to create more American jobs, it appears, didn't include positions within the federal government.
One of the new president's first orders of business on Monday was to sign an executive order establishing a federal hiring freeze, which the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) warns will impact workers and communities across the nation, as more than 85 percent of federal employees live and work outside the nation's capital.
During a press briefing on Monday, press secretary Sean Spicer framed the memorandum—which prevents vacant positions from being filled or new positions from being created, except within the military or national security apparatus—as an effort to create an "effective and efficient government."
But, as AFGE national president J. David Cox Sr. pointed out, the freeze will "actually increase taxpayer costs by forcing agencies to hire more expensive contractors to do work that civilian government employees are already doing for far less."
In effect, it's a step towards privatizing the federal government.
"Numerous studies have shown that contractors are two to three times more costly than each federal employee they replace," Cox said. "President Trump's federal hiring freeze will result in more government waste as agencies are forced to hire high-priced contractors to do the work that federal employees can and should be doing."
"All Americans," Cox said, "should be outraged that President Trump is gutting federal programs and funneling their taxpayer dollars into the hands of less-regulated private companies who answer to their corporate shareholders and not the American people."
What's more, by excluding the military and national security, which make up two-thirds of the federal workforce, the freeze will "disproportionately affect domestic agencies and programs, many of which have already endured severe budget cuts this decade," AFGE notes. Sources close to the transition also told Politico that the new administration is also "fine-tuning plans to shrink several agencies focused on domestic policy."
"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," Cox added.
The cuts will likely create a "culture of fear" within threatened government offices, one career federal employee told Politico reporters Nancy Cook and Andrew Restuccia. But another unnamed Environmental Protection Agency employee said that the anti-worker sentiment could also embolden federal workers to report "information of what is happening inside their agencies to advocacy groups and the media," the outlet reported.
In other words, Politico observes, Trump could be inadvertently motivating federal whistleblowers to speak out.
The Republican-led Congress is also in support of this move. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has indicated that his priorities under the Trump administration will be "reforming" protections for federal workers such as "eliminating defined-benefit pensions for new federal employees and making it easier for agencies to dismiss employees accused of sexual misconduct," Govexec.com reported earlier this month.