Federal employees that perform work in a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making or policy-advocating capacity will be moved out of the competitive service and onto a new schedule under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump Oct. 21.
The order pertains to career employees that are not part of the Senior Executive Service and are not subject to arrival and removal under a presidential transition. Such employees would be classified under a new Schedule F and would not be subject to the hiring requirements for the competitive service.
“Pursuant to my authority under section 3302(1) of title 5, United States Code, I find that conditions of good administration make necessary an exception to the competitive hiring rules and examinations for career positions in the federal service of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character. These conditions include the need to provide agency heads with additional flexibility to assess prospective appointees without the limitations imposed by competitive service selection procedures,” Trump wrote in the order.
The finalized rule would enable agency managers to move more quickly through disciplinary processes and encourages keeping new feds in career limbo for their first year.
Employees placed under Schedule F would also not be entitled to the adverse action and removal procedures set down in U.S. Code.
“Separating employees who cannot or will not meet required performance standards is important, and it is particularly important with regard to employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions,” Trump wrote in the order.
“High performance by such employees can meaningfully enhance agency operations, while poor performance can significantly hinder them. Senior agency officials report that poor performance by career employees in policy-relevant positions has resulted in long delays and substandard-quality work for important agency projects, such as drafting and issuing regulations.”
But the American Federation of Government Employees warned that such changes could enable political appointees to remove employees from key positions for political reasons.
“This is the most profound undermining of the civil service in our lifetimes. The president has doubled down on his effort to politicize and corrupt the professional service. This executive order strips due process rights and protections from perhaps hundreds of thousands of federal employees and will enable political appointees and other officials to hire and fire these workers at will,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said.
A good government group noted that such changes made as an executive order rather than bipartisan legislation were ill-advised.
“Being able to place any number of existing career positions into this new Schedule F not only blurs the line between politics and the neutral competency of the career civil service, it obliterates it. We urge Congress to act swiftly to examine the development and potential impact of this executive order,” Partnership for Public Service President and CEO Max Stier said in a statement.
“The executive order does not articulate the underlying case for the new Schedule F job classification and provides more questions than answers, including the process for creating the executive order and who is covered by the changes. What is clear is that many federal human resource professionals inside and outside of government were neither consulted nor informed.”
Federal agencies have 210 days to conduct a complete review of current positions to petition the Office of Personnel Management to move certain of those positions into the new Schedule F.