For the federal workforce, the first year of the Trump administration in some ways played out as many had predicted, but the year also was notable for what didn’t happen as much as for what did.
Trump met the expectations that he would impose a hiring freeze and repeat long-running budgetary proposals backed by conservatives while moving to reduce the size of the federal workforce long-term and turn over some of its functions to the private sector.
However, the hiring freeze had numerous exceptions and was lifted after just three months. In its place came a directive for agencies to study themselves to reorganize to become more efficient–including opening the door for resumed contracting-out under OMB Circular A-76. Some agencies maintained hiring restrictions through the year, at least in headquarters and other positions not public-facing. But Congress refused to lift the long-running moratorium on contracting out.
Also rejected was the administration’s proposal for another round of DoD base realignments and closings of the sort that in the past resulted in the transfer or loss of tens of thousands of civilian jobs. Trump’s proposals to increase employee contributions toward retirement and reduce retiree COLAs, among other ideas, meanwhile stalled after initial movement through the House.
Also, somewhat surprisingly, the administration recommended–and then continued pushing in the face of congressional inaction–raising the standard buyout amount government-wide from $25,000 to $40,000 to match the higher amount already in place at DoD. However, Congress ultimately left that idea by the wayside, too.
There also had been substantial fears of RIFs and substantial hopes of early retirement and buyout offers as an alternative. Neither materialized, although the EPA made a significant number of incentive offers and the State Department a lesser number.