Federal Manager's Daily Report

Washington DC, Feb. 2019: OMB director Mick Mulvaney, center, speaks to Gov. John Bel Edwards, D-La., right, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, left, before President Trump speaks to a group of governors during a business session at the White House

Remarks from top Trump administration official Mick Mulvaney show that the main motivation for the administration’s plans to move some federal employees out of the national capital area is to reduce federal employment, not to better serve the public as has been the official line, a federal union has said.

Most of the focus has been on the move by September 30 of most of two Agriculture Department research entities to the Kansas City area—involving several hundred employees, more than half of whom have said they will quit or retire rather than relocate—and moving some Interior Department functions out of headquarters, also affecting several hundred employees. Those are two elements of a broad agency reorganization plan announced a year ago.

In a recent speech to a Republican organization, Mulvaney commented that “it’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker,” and characterized the attrition at USDA as a positive, calling it “a wonderful way to sort of streamline the government and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.”

His comments stand in contrast to the administration’s prior arguments that the moves will put federal employees closer to the people they serve, with the added benefit of some cost savings. Mulvaney has retained the title of OMB director as he is serving as acting White House chief of staff and his OMB duties are mainly being performed by others.

The AFGE union said that the comments “confirm what our union has been saying all along: the administration’s decision to transfer hundreds of USDA jobs from D.C. isn’t about helping federal employees do their jobs better or delivering better services to the American taxpayer. Their goal is to drive out hardworking and dedicated civil servants and silence the parts of the agencies’ research that the administration views as inconvenient.”

Moves have been made in Congress to block those plans, although as part of appropriations bills that would need President Trump’s signature to take effect. The same is true of the planned absorption of most of OPM by the DoD and the GSA, although those jobs are to remain in the capital area.