In advance of the first Trump administration budget proposal, the administration has repeatedly signaled its view that the federal workforce is too large. A recent White House statement said that “we are going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people”; a summary of actions taken to date included a statement that “President Trump put in place a hiring freeze for federal civilian employees to stop the growth of a bloated government”; and before a recent meeting with his officials on the budget Trump said that “we’ve already imposed hiring freezes on nonessential government workers, and part of our commitment is to continue to do that for the American taxpayer.” Calling some federal employees “nonessential”–Trump used the term again in his speech to Congress–could be a signal in itself because of the connotation that they are not needed. That is not the formal term for who gets furloughed in a partial government shutdown; the distinction is between “excepted” and “non-excepted.” Extending the general hiring freeze would be a natural first step would since the original freeze memo called for a long-range reduction of the federal workforce by attrition–and the primary way to achieve that would be to not fill positions as they become vacant as employees retire or leave for other reasons. Upcoming proposals to cut spending on many programs outside national security also would have an impact on jobs, although decreases of a certain percentage in spending do not necessarily translate into cuts of the same proportion in the associated workforce.
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