The newly released fuller details of the Trump administration’s budget proposal projects a 4 percent increase in 2020 as measured by “full-time equivalent” positions, although much of that would reflect the special one-time needs related to conducting the national census next year.

Says one of the documents, “As mission, service, and stewardship needs should drive the optimal size of the federal workforce, the Office of Management and Budget did not set targets for full-time equivalent (FTE) levels for each agency. While some agencies may choose to reduce FTEs, in many ar¬eas, the administration seeks to increase the workforce.”


FTEs are not a count of jobs but rather a measure of workload—two half-time employees count as one FTE, for example—and always increase in the year before, and especially during, the year of a census as needed part-time and temporary workers are hired. The budget shows that the Commerce Department, the Census Bureau’s parent agency, will increase to 112,000 from the estimated 51,700 of 2019 (which in turn us up from the 2018 actual of 40,200).

That accounts for the bulk of the projected 85,000 FTE increase from 2019 to 2020 in the budget to a total of 2,215,000 in executive branch agencies apart from the self-funding Postal Service. Other agencies with projected growth in FTEs include VA, up 13,800 to 393,800; DHS, up 12,800 to 201,700; and DoD, up 5,400 to 758,000.

DHS and VA, however, have had difficulties filling their available positions. VA’s latest accounting showed nearly 50,000 vacancies, mainly in health care related jobs, while DHS staffing for years has fallen below its allowable numbers in law enforcement positions, even apart from the administration’s repeated requests to increase the numbers of those positions.

Among agencies that would lose FTEs under the budget are the EPA, down 2,100 to 12,400, and Agriculture, down 2,100 to 83,700. It also shows the transfer of virtually all of OPM’s 5,800 employees to GSA or DoD under the administration’s plan to break off OPM’s operating divisions and turn its policy functions into a new office of the White House.