Many anticipated that President Trump would keep to his campaign promise of instituting a hiring freeze for the federal government.
But when the White House rolled out an executive order on Jan. 23 bringing federal civilian hiring to a standstill, federal employee unions and associations howled their discontent not only over the move but whether it would even be effective in reducing the size of government.
"President Trump's action will disrupt government programs and services that benefit everyone and actually increase taxpayer costs by forcing agencies to hire more expensive contractors to do work that civilian government employees are already doing for far less," said AFGE National President J. David Cox in a statement.
Not so fast, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel of the Professional Services Council, who noted that an extended, lengthy freeze would be harmful to both the public and private sectors.
"This has nothing to do with contracting out. This has everything to do with government performing its inherently governmental functions, including generating the requirements that are needing for contracts, signing contracts and performing their critical contract administration functions," he said.
Richard Thissen, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said the hiring freeze would do nothing to trim federal workforce levels, citing a 1982 Government Accountability Office report, saying such freezes only offer the "illusion of control" and weren't effective in managing employment numbers
"Additionally, this policy would have a negative impact on the recruitment and retention of a highly-qualified workforce," Thissen said.
"It explicitly would prevent the government from hiring anyone, including the best and the brightest candidates for public service. It also would create dysfunction within the workforce and overload existing employees, hindering the government's ability to retain talented workers."
Trump first promised to institute a federal hiring freeze on the campaign trail last October. Since that time, some congressional leaders have been actively petitioning the president to reconsider the measure.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., and 105 other congressmen signed a Jan. 9 letter to Trump, citing the negative impact such a move would mean for the federal government.
Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, noted that with the bulk of the federal workforce edging towards retirement, the hiring freeze could have a disastrous impact on the government’s ability to provide services.
"Attrition is already taking a heavy toll at many federal agencies as employees depart and there is no replacement to take on the work. Freezing federal hiring could lead to disastrous short-term and long-term impacts and the American people will suffer," said Reardon in a statement.
Chvotkin said that a lengthy, broad hiring freeze would ultimately prove damaging to the business of government.
"If it's in place for only a short period of time the new Trump administration officials to get a handle on where their needs are and how best to fulfill them, it's tolerable," he said. "The longer an across-the-board freeze remains into effect, the greater the risk that critical work that needs to be done will not be done."