The Freeze Has Begun

The president's hiring freeze on non-DoD executive departments is in effect until an OMB long-term plan to reduce the federal workforce through attrition has been implemented. Meanwhile, a moratorium on federal rulemaking actions is already apparent.

Nine weeks ago, Cass R. Sunstein, who headed the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs during part of Barack Obama's presidency, explained how President Donald Trump could slow down the federal bureaucracy. There were 159 regulations pending before OIRA as of Nov. 22, 2016—an "unusually high" number, Sunstein wrote in a column for Bloomberg that day—and he pointed out that the new administration "could work to cut staff, if only by refusing to fill vacancies, and it could certainly work with Congress to reduce appropriations. Far more important, Trump could do a lot to reduce agency activity."

If the number of rules pending at OIRA dropped below 25, "we have something very close to a moratorium," Sunstein explained. And that has now happened.

As of Jan. 24, there were 24 proposed rules under OIRA review, none of them from the U.S. Department of Labor or EPA.

At the same time, the president has ordered a hiring freeze on non-DoD executive departments that is in effect until an OMB long-term plan to reduce the federal workforce through attrition has been implemented. The text of his memorandum dated Jan. 23 says, "As part of this freeze, no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances. This order does not include or apply to military personnel. The head of any executive department or agency may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities. In addition, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may grant exemptions from this freeze where those exemptions are otherwise necessary.

"Within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in consultation with the Director of OPM, shall recommend a long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government's workforce through attrition. This order shall expire upon implementation of the OMB plan. Contracting outside the Government to circumvent the intent of this memorandum shall not be permitted. This hiring freeze applies to all executive departments and agencies regardless of the sources of their operational and programmatic funding, excepting military personnel.

"In carrying out this memorandum, I ask that you seek efficient use of existing personnel and funds to improve public services and the delivery of these services. Accordingly, this memorandum does not prohibit making reallocations to meet the highest priority needs and to ensure that essential services are not interrupted and national security is not affected.

"This memorandum does not limit the nomination and appointment of officials to positions requiring Presidential appointment or Senate confirmation, the appointment of officials to non-career positions in the Senior Executive Service or to Schedule C positions in the Excepted Service, or the appointment of any other officials who serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority. Moreover, it does not limit the hiring of personnel where such a limit would conflict with applicable law. This memorandum does not revoke any appointment to Federal service made prior to January 22, 2017. This memorandum does not abrogate any collective bargaining agreement in effect on the date of this memorandum."

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