President Trump issued an executive order Monday freezing federal hiring. The hiring freeze excludes national security employees.
The hiring freeze was the second of six measures “to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, D.C.” and part of his “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.”
News of the executive order drew immediate fire from the largest federal employee union.
“President Trump’s action will disrupt government programs and services that benefit everyone and actually increase taxpayer costs by forcing agencies to hire more expensive contractors to do work that civilian government employees are already doing for far less,” said American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox Sr. “This hiring freeze will mean longer lines at Social Security offices, fewer workplace safety inspections, less oversight of environmental polluters, and greater risk to our nation’s food supply and clean water systems.”
Opponents of the policy have said a hiring freeze not only disrupts government operations and delays services to citizens, but it also may not even be an effective way to reduce costs. A 1982 General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) report on Reagan and Carter’s hiring freezes found the policy was not an “effective means” of controlling federal employment “regardless of how well managed.”
In an August 1981 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in National Treasury Employees Union v. Ronald Reagan, the court ruled that anyone who had been appointed after Election Day, but had not yet started work, were affected by the retroactive freeze because they had not actually become federal employees. It found that a small number of workers among the plaintiff group, however, had begun to perform official work functions and therefore could make a claim based on the standard civil service protections that federal employees hold.
GAO said: “The government-wide hiring freezes had little effect on federal employment levels and it is not known whether they saved money. Because they ignored individual agencies’ missions, workload and staffing requirements, these freezes disrupted agency operations and, in some cases, increased costs to the government.”
Rather than reducing the cost on labor overall, the auditors found the administration developed “alternative sources” to get work done that increased spending.
“Any potential savings produced by these freezes would be partially or completely offset by increasing overtime, contracting with private firms, or using other than full-time permanent employees,” GAO said. “Decreased debt and revenue collections also occurred as a result of hiring freezes.”