New rule could make it much harder for Trump to overhaul federal workforce if he wins in November

Washington — The government’s top human resources agency issued a new rule Thursday making it harder to lay off thousands of federal employees, hoping to avoid former President Donald Trump’s promises to radically reshape the workforce. of work along ideological lines if he reconquers the White House in November.

Office of Personnel Management regulations will prohibit career civil servants from being reclassified as political appointees or other at-will workers, who are more easily fired from their jobs. This follows “Exhibit F,” an executive order issued by Trump in 2020 that sought to allow the reclassification of tens of thousands of the 2.2 million federal employees and thereby reduce their job security protections .

President Biden canceled Schedule F upon taking office. But if Trump were to revive it during a second administration, he could significantly expand the number of federal employees — about 4,000 at present — who are considered political appointees and who typically change with each new president.

It is unclear exactly how many employees might have been affected by Schedule F. However, the National Treasury Employee Union used Freedom of Information requests to obtain documents suggesting that federal employees such as chiefs office staff and human resources and cybersecurity specialists could have been subject to reclassification — meaning the scope of Trump’s order could have been broader than previously thought. .

The new rule could counter a future Schedule F order by specifying procedural requirements for reclassifying federal employees and clarifying that civil service protections earned by employees cannot be removed regardless of employment type . It also clarifies that decision-making classifications apply to non-career political appointments and cannot be applied to career civil servants.

“It will now be much more difficult for a president to arbitrarily remove nonpartisan professionals who work in our federal agencies just to make room for hand-picked partisan loyalists,” said the president of the National Treasury Employees Union. , Doreen Greenwald, in a press release.

Very different versions of the new rule

Good-government groups, think tanks and liberal activists applauded the rule. They considered strengthening protections for federal workers a top priority, given that replacing existing government employees with new, more conservative alternatives is a key part of the conservative Heritage Foundation’s nearly 1,000-page manual known as name “Project 2025”.

The plan calls for controlling and potentially firing dozens of federal officials and recruiting conservative replacements to wipe out what top Republicans have long decried as the “deep state” government bureaucracy.

Skye Perryman, president and CEO of Democracy Forward, which led a coalition of nearly 30 advocacy organizations supporting the rule, called it “extraordinarily strong” and said it could effectively counter “anti-democratic groups endowed with considerable resources” behind the 2025 project.

“It’s not a far-fetched question, although it can sometimes be presented that way,” Perryman said. “This is really fundamental to ensuring that the government responds to the needs of the population and, for us, that is democracy.”

The final rule, which is 237 pages long, is being published in the Federal Register and is expected to officially take effect next month. The Office of Personnel Management first proposed the changes last November, then reviewed and responded to more than 4,000 public comments on them. Leaders of some major conservative organizations were among those opposing the new rule, but about two-thirds of the comments were in favor.

If Trump wins another term, his administration could direct the Office of Personnel Management to develop new rules. But the process takes months and requires detailed explanations of why the new regulations would be improvements — potentially allowing legal challenges by opponents.

Rob Shriver, deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management, said the new rule ensures that federal employee protections “cannot be erased by a technical and HR process,” which he said “Appendix F was trying to do.

“This rule is intended to ensure that the American public can continue to rely on federal workers to apply their skills and expertise in doing their jobs, regardless of their personal political beliefs,” Shriver said on a call with journalists.

He noted that 85 percent of federal employees are based outside the Washington region and are “our friends, neighbors and family,” dedicated “to serving the American people, not political agendas.”


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