‘Stunning’ Executive Order Enables Politicized Civil ServiceBreaking News
tags: labor, federal government, Donald Trump, Civil service, spoils system, Pendleton Act
President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order to create a new classification of “policy-making” federal employees that could strip swaths of the federal workforce of civil service protections just before the next president is sworn into office.
The order will create a new Schedule F within the excepted service of the federal government, to be composed of “employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions,” and instructs agency heads to determine which current employees fit this definition and move them—whether they are members of the competitive service or other schedules within the excepted service—into this new classification. Federal regulations stating that employees hired into the competitive service retain that status even if their position is moved to the excepted service will not apply to Schedule F transfers.
Positions in the new Schedule F would effectively constitute at-will employment, without any of the protections against adverse personnel actions that most federal workers currently enjoy, although individual agencies are tasked with establishing “rules to prohibit the same personnel practices prohibited” by Title 5 of the U.S. Code. The order also instructs the Federal Labor Relations Authority to examine whether Schedule F employees should be removed from their bargaining units, a move that would bar them from being represented by federal employee unions.
But federal employee groups and government observers described the executive order as a “stunning” attempt to politicize the civil service and undermine more than a century of laws aimed at preventing corruption and cronyism in the federal government.
“The  Pendleton Act is clearly in the sights of this executive order,” said Donald Kettl, the Sid Richardson professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. “It wants to undo what the Pendleton Act and subsequent civil service laws tried to accomplish, which was to create a career civil service with expertise that is both accountable to elected officials but also a repository of expertise in government. The argument here is that anyone involved in policymaking can be swept into this new classification, and once they’re in they’re subject to political review and dismissal for any reason.”
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