Federal Employees News Digest

Hiring: To freeze or overflow?

Purely hypothetical question:

Suppose you are about to get a new big-boss. The CEO, The Top Banana, The Big Kuhana. He/she has made a fortune, but knows next to nothing about your operation. You’ve heard he/she is thinking about making big changes in your company; ones that could impact your salary, your duties, and your job security. You’ve also heard that the new CEO hates the color red, has a morbid fear of giraffes (real or stuffed) and thinks (but isn’t convinced yet) that there are too many employees in the company.  What do you do?

A: Take the hint? Don’t wear a red jacket or red dress to work every day. Make sure that the nearest giraffe (real or stuffed) is in the local zoo, not in the company parking lot or cafeteria. Prepare to justify the payroll—and number of employees on it—but freeze or limit hiring until the new CEO gets there. 


B: On his/her first day in office, have all staff wear red and change the company logo to a smiling giraffe before he or she takes the helm.  And, then let top managers go on a hiring spree so that once the new chief is installed he/she really would be looking at what appears to be a bloated workforce?

Common sense might dictate a "meet-the-new-boss plan" that would allow him/her learn the ropes and see just how and why things are done the way they are done. No in-your-face red drapes or painted rooms; no giraffe pictures and statues everywhere and no hiring binge just before the new boss shows up. But Washington, D.C., is not known to the general public as the place from whence common sense (aka American values) is practiced and appreciated.

Now back to reality. The above questions — as you probably figured out — are not hypothetical at all. They concern you, president-elect Donald Trump and the future of the federal bureaucracy after Jan. 20, 2017.  Most of the guessing about what President-elect Donald Trump will do has been wrong. He tends to zig after people say he will likely zag. He's not unlike President Lyndon B. Johnson who often went out of his way to prove that crystal-ballers were wrong.

Well, according to the Washington Post, which knows a thing or two about how D.C. and the federal government operates — some bosses have gone on hiring sprees in the anticipation that one of  Trump’s first executive orders will be to freeze all federal hiring. Or at least limited freezes like other presidents have done until they got—or thought they got—their bearings. And also until they found out that certain things, like the Defense Department, the FBI, the IRS and Social Security are not operations you can just “freeze” or “shutdown.”

According to the Post, many government executives — career bureaucrats, who politicians and editorial writers love to slam—are hiring like crazy. Literally, like crazy. According to the Post, they’ve speeded up the often slow hiring process and are bringing people on board pretty rapidly. Is that prudent or is it a bunch of elite non-elected bureaucrats thumbing their noses at the candidate who got the most electoral votes and is therefore going to be our next president?

The Page One story of the hiring spree on Dec. 31 sent shockwaves through much of the political establishment. Some people cheered the action.  Many more, judging from the comments, thought it was a bad, deceitful thing to do.  Many said it violated a post-election White House promise not to hire anyone after Dec. 1, to give the new administration time to sort things out.

Fox news, not a fan of the Obama administration, pointed out that in the past, lame-duck administrations had made it a practice NOT to pack the civil service before the new president took office. Another conservative blog listed the last-minute hiring "binge" as another one of President Obama’s mistakes or misdeeds alongside its policy toward Israel, the United Nations, “the land grab in Utah and Nevada” and a “record” number of last-minute pardons of convicted criminals.

Fans of the hiring surge/binge/whatever, say it makes sense to get as many good people on the payroll as possible before the meanies take over.

Bottom Line 1:  Many, maybe most people, view the world through their own filter. What is good to a conservative is horrible to liberals. And vice versa. Looking at the comments to both the original Post article, and follow-ups by others, show how quickly the issue became a partisan food fight. 

Bottom Line 2: What about the effect, if any, on people under the gun? That would be you. A career fed who does his/her job without regard to politics. Will the last-minute hiring help or hurt you and your colleagues? Or will it have no impact at all? Time will tell.

In the meantime, hang in there. We're all in for interesting (maybe great, maybe not so great) times. Some — like you — more than others.

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Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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