Financial limitations that caused the Securities and Exchange Commission to freeze the hiring of new employees from October 2016 to April 2019 have adversely impacted the overall mission of the agency, according to responses to a Government Accountability Office survey of agency personnel, released Jan. 24.

SEC employees largely found that the hiring freeze had a noticeable negative impact, with 65.7 percent saying that it had in effect on their workload. Over 94 percent of supervisors and managers at SEC said that the hiring freeze had a negative effect on their division’s workload, with half noting that it had a large negative effect.

Employees also felt that the freeze had a noticeable negative impact on morale, with 31 percent of respondents saying that there was a large negative impact.

“Based on SEC’s budget justification documents, from October 1, 2016, through September 30, 2018, SEC lost a net total of 476 positions agencywide, including 363 positions across its mission-critical offices and divisions,” GAO wrote in a December 2019 report.

That reduction has meant that divisions are working with too few staff to accomplish their mission, with over 57 percent of employees saying that they do not have the necessary staff to accomplish the volume of work in their office.

Despite a lifting of the freeze in early 2019, managers are still struggling to bring on new staff, with over 70 percent saying that the hiring process is too time consuming and nearly 54 percent saying that the agency needs to do more to invest in the development of employees they do manage to bring on.

The SEC is not the only agency to struggle after prolonging the hiring freeze instituted by President Donald Trump during his first month in office. The State Department also faced “significant” upheaval due to its almost year-long hiring freeze, according to its inspector general.

Across the executive branch, the talent gap in critical positions such as information technology and auditing was exacerbated by the 90-day freeze mandated for the entire federal government.

Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.

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