Trump administration lifts federal hiring freeze

The Trump administration has decided to lift its recently enacted hiring freeze, as federal agencies were complaining that the policy was too restrictive.

The administration will replace the across-the-board freeze with a more targeted reduction in federal staffing levels.

The Hill:

"What we're doing tomorrow is replacing the across-the-board hiring freeze that was put in place on day one and replacing it with a smarter plan, a more strategic plan, a more surgical plan."

Trump signed an executive order on his first full work day in the White House that temporarily halted all non-military federal hiring, an attempt to fulfill his campaign promise to "drain the swamp" and reduce the size of government. 

But the freeze resulted in an increased backlog of benefits claims at the Veterans Affairs (VA) department, which Trump pledged to strengthen during the campaign. 

It also created delays in the processing of Social Security checks, staff shortages at federal prisons, the closure of childcare facilities at military bases and fewer workers at the Food and Drug Administration to work on drug approvals.

Mulvaney did not say how many vacancies in the federal government would be filled after the freeze is lifted. 

The VA and Department of Defense, which would receive funding increases under Trump's budget plan, could hire more workers, according to Mulvaney. Others, whose budgets would be cut such as the Environmental Protection Agency, likely would not be able to staff up. 

The budget director denied that the move violates Trump's promises of cutting and streamlining the federal government. 

Lifting the hiring freeze will not necessarily increase the number of federal workers.  Vacancies created by retirements and other factors will not all be filled, and then there's the question of funding these agencies.  With the cuts proposed by the Trump administration, the money simply won't be there for agencies to hire many new workers.

But federal agencies have a lot of tricks up their sleeves to increase their size.  There's always the possibility that agency heads are deliberately slow-walking services in order to effect a policy change.  Until the government shutdowns over the last few years, that would have seemed to be an outrageous conspiracy theory.  But what we know of federal managers today is that they are not above deliberately causing pain to taxpayers in order to get what they want.

The latest action by the Trump administration highlights the difficulty in shrinking the size of government.  The next challenge is to reduce the government's workload – its reach and influence on individual lives – so that fewer workers are needed to perform the services that government is responsible for.