The Oct. 21 executive order looks to reshape the competitive service by allowing agencies to reclassify policy jobs under a new schedule and give senior managers greater flexibility in hiring candidates and firing employees.
The Trump administration created a new category of civil servant dubbed "Schedule F" in an Oct. 21 executive order that establishes new hiring and firing flexibilities for agencies across a range of policymaking positions.
The new classification will include employees in "confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character," according to the executive order, which are "not normally subject to change as the result of a presidential transition."
Under the order, federal agencies have 90 days to complete a preliminary review of positions to be reclassified under the order, with final determinations due in 210 days. That puts the first deadline at Jan. 19, 2021, one day before the scheduled presidential inauguration.
Some job functions listed as likely candidates for reclassification under Schedule F include the supervision of attorneys, the drafting of regulation and policy advocacy, positions housed in the very top executive tiers of agencies and roles that involve negotiating collective bargaining agreements.
The order also requires agencies to "expeditiously petition" the Federal Labor Relations Authority for approval to remove a reclassified Schedule F job from a bargaining unit, eliminating union participation.
The Trump administration couched the order in the language of efficient government.
"Separating employees who cannot or will not meet required performance standards is important, and it is particularly important with regard to employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions," the order states. "High performance by such employees can meaningfully enhance agency operations, while poor performance can significantly hinder them." The order notes that "senior agency officials report that poor performance by career employees in policy-relevant positions has resulted in long delays and substandard-quality work for important agency projects, such as drafting and issuing regulations."
One Trump political ally praised the order as "draining the swamp."
"President Trump has long pledged to take on this bureaucracy and restore power to the people by draining the swamp," Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in a statement. "President Trump again delivered on his promise by signing an executive order that will help make bureaucrats who have the ability to create and implement policy more accountable for their actions."
Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees called the order, "the most profound undermining of the civil service in our lifetimes."
"The president has doubled down on his effort to politicize and corrupt the professional service," Kelley said in a statement. "This executive order strips due process rights and protections from perhaps hundreds of thousands of federal employees and will enable political appointees and other officials to hire and fire these workers at will."
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform said that the order wasn't aimed at mending known weaknesses in federal human resources management.
“This executive order is yet another attack on federal employees that addresses absolutely none of the issues that can hinder effective federal recruitment and hiring. It’s a cheap ploy to let the Trump administration replace talent and acumen with fealty and self-dealing," Connolly said in an emailed statement.
Walter Shaub, a former head of the Office of Government Ethics and a high-profile critic of the Trump administration, warned of the potential consequences of the executive order.
"This is dangerous stuff," Shaub wrote on Twitter. "If you politicize the civil service, you make its members loyal to politicians instead of the Constitution and the rule of law." He added: "This could also be an effort by the Trump administration to have its political appointees 'burrow in' the civil service so they don’t have to quit if Trump loses (depending on how fast the administration moves to implement the order)."
The order also applies to all positions that require the White House Office of Presidential Personnel for their appointment. The Senior Executive Service is exempt. The order also contains a section banning adverse actions against Schedule F employees on the basis of their partisan affiliation, other protected characteristics, or their place as a whistleblower.
This article was updated Oct. 22 to include additional comment.
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