Federal agency cancels holiday vacation for HR staff in order to hire and promote more people before Trump inauguration

The Obama administration is attempting to hamstring the successor Trump administration by hiring large numbers of new staff, and promoting existing employees before it leaves office.  Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin report in the Washington Post:

Several federal agencies are accelerating hiring in the final days of the Obama administration to ensure that as many new employees as possible are in place before President-elect Donald Trump imposes a promised hiring freeze.

Leaders at these agencies are filling open positions with transfers and outside hires and are making internal promotions before Trump takes office Jan. 20, according to internal documents and interviews.

It appears that a prior agreement is being flouted:

Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, said in an interview late Friday that an agreement was struck in November that no new hires would be made after Dec. 1.

“After the election, the current administration notified us there would be a hiring freeze as of Dec. 1,” he said. “The understanding was that there would be a full accounting of anyone put on the payroll after then.” (snip)

According to an OMB official who asked for anonymity to discuss a private conversation, OMB senior adviser Andrew Mayock told Trump’s transition team executive director Rick Dearborn at a Nov. 21 meeting that the administration intended to halt any new SES hires as of Dec. 7. While Dearborn asked for a list of any new hires in that category after the election, and Mayock acknowledged that request, the official said, Mayock did not commit to providing such a list.

The moratorium also applies to promotions from non-Senior Executive Service civil service positions, the official added.

So far, Trump’s incoming press secretary Sean Spicer is declining to make a fuss over what might be at best a misunderstanding. But there is evidence that yet another poison pill strategy is being attempted by the outgoing Obama administration, intended to constrain the actions of the next president.

The internal pressure to hire is so intense in some corners of the government that at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is bringing on hundreds of employees, human-resources officials were ordered to cancel their year-end holiday vacations to process paperwork and make offers to new hires.

An internal agency update there, issued on Nov. 17, instructed officials that “all involved should be ready for an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to implement the ‘45-day Hiring Plan’ (Plan) to address a potential hiring freeze.”

The agencies rushing to bring on new employees include not just Fish and Wildlife but also the Transportation Security Administration, the National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and parts of the Agriculture and Labor departments.

All the more reason why civil service reform, including the ability to lay off or terminate employees, is needed.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky