A composite image made of file images shows Democratic then-candidate for President, Joe Biden in Columbia, GA in Feb., and President Donald J. Trump during the final presidential debate in Nashville, TN in Oct.

A Biden administration is widely expected to act on many fronts to overturn Trump administration policies on the federal workforce and to take a different approach to matters such as benefits and labor relations. While some of those actions might occur quickly, others would take more time—and the new administration might retain at least parts of what has been put in place over the last four years.

Several of the Trump administration’s most substantial policies regarding the workforce were set by executive orders and therefore could be canceled just as easily. These include May 2018 executive orders on union matters, and recent ones to ban what the administration called divisive and anti-American content in training that has resulted in a general halt to diversity and inclusiveness training, and to move large numbers of career employees involved with policy matters into the excepted service and strip them of their union representation rights and disciplinary appeal rights. A 2018 order had done the same with administrative law judge positions.


Those orders are seen as unlikely to survive long in a Biden administration. However, a third order of May 2018 cutting employee protections to the minimum required by law in discipline recently was finalized as regulations and it likely would require new rule-making to take those policies off the books. Also, one section of those rules carries out a change in law that predated the order: mandatory discipline for management officials who retaliate against whistleblowers.

Also potentially surviving at least in part would be a Trump order downplaying the role of educational credentials in job vacancies and candidate assessment; that was aimed at part at addressing the government’s difficulties in recruiting for IT positions, since many such workers lack formal degrees but instead are qualified because of certifications and practical experience. That order further tells agencies to downplay self-assessments by candidates; that mirrors concerns raised by the MSPB and some outside experts that self-assessments often are over-inflated.

On compensation matters, Biden is unlikely to make the types of budgetary proposals the Trump administration made year after year, to require employees to pay more toward retirement, to reduce the benefit amounts for future retirees and to reduce the value of inflation adjustments for both current and future retirees, for example. However, congressional Republicans likely will continue advocating for such cuts, which if nothing else could cancel out Democratic proposals to improve those benefits.

On pay, the Trump administration proposals have been about in line with the amounts the Obama administration proposed in its later years, after a three-year pay freeze in its early years that was part of a compromise with congressional Republicans at a time of higher concern about annual federal budget deficits.

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