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Agencies feel IT staff shortages from Trump administration hiring freezes

The coronavirus pandemic pushed federal agencies to rely on technology to support telework, but some organizations are feeling the pinch from hiring freezes instituted at the start of the Trump administration. At a government IT event hosted by the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center (ATARC), a few speakers discussed the strain being put on IT departments.

"We all, I think, across the board have the security concerns that we're fighting individually and collectively, but the IT resources have been a bit of a struggle because of the hiring freezes that we've experienced with the previous administration," Alisha Johnson, cloud program manager for the Department of Homeland Security, said Feb. 2 at ATARC's virtual cloud summit.

James Saunders, chief information security at the Small Business Administration, echoed Johnson's remarks, saying his team has been able to overcome most security concerns associated with teleworking, but reduced staffing has increased stress for those who remain.

He said, there's "not that many people with the skills you need to make the security changes, to make operational changes to really put your cloud footprint where it needs to be." Saunders added: "It falls down to maybe a handful of people, and you've got them doing everything. Now they're stressed out, burning out, now you put yourself in a worse situation."

Former President Donald Trump's hiring freeze on the federal civilian workforce was one of his first executive actions in 2017. The order established a 90-day review period for the Office of Management Budget, but Trump's administration made reducing the size of the federal workforce an ongoing goal. Trump's critics largely panned his efforts as evidence of a disdain for expertise and a dangerous hollowing out of the government workforce.

Reader comments

Fri, Feb 5, 2021

Thank the elected minions in the congress and senate for the way the administration(s) treated civil servants. The unions are weak and just spew hot air. The president(s) all endorsed reductions in benefits, COLAs and work place considerations. Rampant age and gender bias is the current mode of operation. At the Big Outfit in Bethesda, management has tailored made job descriptions to assist in hiring relatives and other cronies. The hard working staff have no chance for promotions of any sort based on performance. The performance appraisals are skewed and make no sense when it comes to what an employee needs professionally. Management also writes each other up for large bonuses and abuses telecommuting. They consider telecommuting a form of annual leave without having to take hours of annual leave.

Thu, Feb 4, 2021

Clinton and Bush Jr needed to pay back their cronies who donated large sums to their election campaigns. In turn they would privatize many functions of government. Yes no administration other than Bush Sr. cared for federal employees. The rest tried to destroy civil service, the benefits, compensation etc. Oh yes do not forget the government shutdowns. The current administration will do what the Obama administration did and provide no COLAs or stability in benefits and compensation. Gender and age bias will be a standard operating procedure.

Wed, Feb 3, 2021

Obama had pay freeze for most of his term as president. At least the republicans decide to give larger COLAs. Agree with previous comment about partisan written article. I have been through 6 presidents at this point. Will see how much blame is placed on Feds by the new regime.

Wed, Feb 3, 2021

This article is a joke of partisan hackery. Blaming your 2021 IT problems on a 90 day hiring freeze that ended in April 2017? And you link to that. In May 2018 Trump signed an EO that gave most CIOs authority to report directly to their agency head. It also gave CIOs direct-hire authority to fill critical skills gaps. But no link to that? Look in the mirror for your solutions and for accountability.

Wed, Feb 3, 2021

A 90 day review is not a hiring freeze. Years with no COLA did more damage. An initiative to recruit more IT was initiated, but OPM never got their act together to manage IT recruitment.

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