President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to infuse the “work or walk” spirit of the private sector into the federal bureaucracy.
The order is designed to reform the federal bureaucracy by creating a new class of positions called “Schedule F.” This will cover “employees serving in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions that are not normally subject to change as the result of a presidential transition,” according to a White House fact sheet.
The order itself, which was dated Oct. 21, notes that “effective performance management of employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions is of the utmost importance.”
However, the federal bureaucracy is not always meeting that standard, the order states.
“Unfortunately, the Government’s current performance management is inadequate, as recognized by Federal workers themselves. For instance, the 2016 Merit Principles Survey reveals that less than a quarter of Federal employees believe their agency addresses poor performers effectively,” the order stated.
“Separating employees who cannot or will not meet required performance standards is important, and it is particularly important with regard to employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions,” Trump said in his order.
The order said that the president is responding to a need identified by those trying to get work done amid the constraint of having employees in their workforce upon whom they cannot rely.
“Senior agency officials report that poor performance by career employees in policy-relevant positions has resulted in long delays and substandard-quality work for important agency projects, such as drafting and issuing regulations,” the order said.
The fact sheet that accompanied the order said that “Removing poor performers, even from these critical positions, is time-consuming and difficult. The Government Accountability Office reports that it takes 6 months to 1 year to remove Federal employees for poor performance.”
The order said that serving the taxpayers requires good people in government.
“Given the importance of the functions they discharge, employees in such positions must display appropriate temperament, acumen, impartiality, and sound judgment. Due to these requirements, agencies should have a greater degree of appointment flexibility with respect to these employees than is afforded by the existing competitive service process,” the order said.
The fact sheet notes that reclassified employees will be protected from retribution against their political affiliation.
Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Viginia, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, put a partisan spin on the order, according to The (U.K) Independent.
He called it “yet another attack on federal employees that addresses absolutely none of the issues that can hinder effective federal recruitment and hiring.”
Connolly said that making it easier to rid the government of individuals was “a cheap ploy to let the Trump administration replace talent and acumen with fealty and self-dealing.”
However, even liberal media outlets like The Washingon Post have documented the existence of anti-Trump blocs in among federal employees, determined to hinder the president’s conservative, small-government philosophy. An executive order that makes it easier for those employees to be weeded out in a second Trump administration means an easier path to implementing even more of those conservative policies.
Months ago, according to the Independent, then-deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley telegraphed the order by saying that Trump wanted to remove “people in the bowels of the federal government working against this president” and pursuing “their own selfish political agenda.”
“It’s not a secret that we want people in positions that work with this president, not against him, and too often we have people in this government — I mean the federal government is massive, with millions of people — and there are a lot people out there taking action against this president and when we find them we will take appropriate action,” Gidley said in January, according to the Independent.
Gidley is now press secretary to Trump’s re-election campaign.
In one section, Trump’s executive order indicates it could be a way to address leaks to the media aimed at harming the administration:
“The Federal Government benefits from career professionals in positions that are not normally subject to change as a result of a Presidential transition but who discharge significant duties and exercise significant discretion in formulating and implementing executive branch policy and programs under the laws of the United States,” it states.
“The heads of executive departments and agencies and the American people also entrust these career professionals with non‑public information that must be kept confidential.”
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