President Trump’s order to shift potentially tens of thousands or more federal employees into the excepted service from the competitive service has stirred a storm over the potential for politicization of such jobs, on the eve of a Presidential election.
The change anticipated by the order would not happen until after agencies identify positions to be moved, based on standards set by the order which anticipates a first assessment to be completed in late January and a fuller one to be completed by late March.
Questions have been raised, but so far unanswered, regarding whether agencies could move more swiftly in order to make the changes effective before Inauguration Day if Democratic candidate Joe Biden should win. While the Biden campaign has not directly addressed the issue, it is widely expected that the order would be canceled under a Biden presidency; he has already said he would cancel several other of the Trump administration’s executive orders regarding disciplinary and union-related policies.
Federal employee unions and management organizations denounced the order as a move to compel career employees to fall in line with the administration’s positions, to undermine the public’s confidence in the civil service, and as paving the way to favoritism in positions in which candidates currently are selected competitively and have protections against personnel actions that are not merit-based.
Democratic leaders on civil service issues in Congress have made similar comments and have introduced a bill to block its implementation. That presumably could be enacted only as a provision of some broader “must-pass” bill, such as a bill needed to fund agencies once a the current temporary authority expires December11, since Trump almost certainly would veto any stand-alone measure.