Workers Dismayed by President Trump's Federal Hiring Freeze

President Donald Trump has signed an order that freezes hiring by the federal government, with the exception of the military. And while some praised the move, the decision has many federal workers feeling disappointed. 

Trump signed the order Monday morning as a way to reduce payrolls and rein in the size of the federal workforce.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus handed Trump the document -- one of three executive orders the new president signed Monday -- in the Oval Office as aides and reporters looked on.

"A federal government employee hiring freeze," Priebus said.

"Except for the military," Trump said twice, looking around the room pointedly.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer spoke about the executive order at a news conference Monday afternoon. 

"I think what the president is showing through the hiring freeze, first and foremost today, is that we've got to respect the American taxpayer," he said. "They're sending us a ton of money and they're working real hard -- some people are working two, three jobs just to get by -- and to see money get wasted in Washington on a job that is duplicative is insulting to the hard work they do to pay their taxes."

House Speaker Paul Ryan praised Trump's move.

"[By] instituting a hiring freeze, he has taken a critical first step toward reining in Washington bureaucracy," he said in a statement.

Statistics from the Office of Personnel Management, though, show that the number of executive branch employees hasn't been this low since 1965, and that the number of employees has stayed more or less steady in the last 15 years. 

Federal worker Greg Guthrie, who is also union officer with the National Federation of Federal Employees, said he didn't understand how Trump could conclude that a hiring freeze was a good idea even before his Cabinet nominees have been approved. 

"As a federal worker, it's kind of deflating to be felt like you're unnecessary,'' he said. 

The union's president, Randy Erwin, said in a statement Monday that a hiring freeze is a "terrible idea.'' 

"Freezing federal hiring sounds good on the campaign trail, but it does not make government smaller like some people think it does,'' he said. "All it does is lead to the hiring of more federal contractors which tend to cost taxpayers more than federal employees and are less accountable.'' 

The full effect of a hiring freeze is unclear. According to OPM, the federal government hired 221,000 workers in fiscal 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. 

The number excludes uniformed military personnel. But roughly a third of those hired were military veterans, who enjoy hiring preferences in the federal government. 

Erwin also pointed out that the Department of Veterans Affairs currently has 2,000 vacancies and said "it is the American veteran that is going to suffer'' because the agency is now barred from filling those vacancies. 

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, whose district includes many federal workers, said Monday that the government actually needs to increase its capacity to handle certain issues, like cybersecurity. 

"This Executive Order ... will have a depressing effect on our ability to recruit and retain the next generation of federal workers,'' he said in a statement. "This is a far cry from President Kennedy's effort to inspire a new generation to enter public service.'' 

Republican Barbra Comstock, who also represents parts of northern Virginia in Congress, announced her own opposition to the hiring freeze and said "past hiring freezes in both Republican and Democrat administrations have cost the federal government money in the long run.'' 

About 85 percent of all federal employees live outside the D.C. area, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Trump vowed during his campaign that he would take on the federal bureaucracy.

The other two executive orders he signed Monday ended U.S. participation in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and reinstated a ban on providing federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide information on the procedure.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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