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EM – 1/23/17: Presidential Memorandum Regarding the Hiring Freeze

By Tom Milligan

Before I start mocking, let’s get to the intent of this Memorandum.

In short, as the title implies, Trump has issued a hiring freeze.

That’s it.

Effective at high noon on January 22, 2017, Trump ordered “a freeze on the hiring of Federal civilian employees to be applied across the board in the executive branch.”

People are expensive.  In fact, payroll costs – and the associated taxes, fees, & benefits – is the single largest cost most companies face.  It’s no surprise that hiring freezes are so common whenever an organization’s revenues aren’t enough to meet their margin needs.

Our insanely high national debt & deficit despite our already too-high personal and business tax rates places the USA right in the “revenues aren’t enough to meet our margin needs” category.

Since Trump is a businessman (although a really shitty one), I’m sure he read somewhere that hiring freezes are a good idea – so why not right?

Now begins the mocking portion of the review…

Per the Trump Administration, the freeze “counters the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.”

Spoiler alert!

There hasn’t been a dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the non-military federal workforce is made up of about 2.80 million people – roughly 10,000 more employees than the 2.79 million employed at the time former President Barack Obama took office in January 2009 – and increase of .36% over an 8 year period.

Wouldn’t you like to meet the statistician (not on Trump’s payroll) that would call that a “dramatic expansion”.  I’d have to assume his/her degree was from Trump University.

Despite the lack of foundational need for the freeze, Trump writes in no uncertain terms, “no vacant positions…may be filled and no new positions may be created.”

That’s pretty strongly worded.  No ambiguity at all right?


First, Trump’s hiring freeze only applies to the Executive branch – not the entire federal government.  The Legislative and Judicial branches are free to continue hiring.

Next, as has become the practice of the Trump administration when writing Executive Orders, they come up with a great title including dramatic words like “hiring freeze” and then open with a strongly worded directive which, if you stopped reading after the directive, would make the Order seem powerful and unambiguous.  

But then they start with the exceptions:

  • “In limited circumstances”
  • “This order does not include or apply to military personnel”
  • “The head of any executive department or agency may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.”
  • “The Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may grant exemptions from this freeze where those exemptions are otherwise necessary.”
  • “officials requiring Presidential appointment or Senate confirmation”
  • “Non-career positions in the Senior Executive Service”
  • “Schedule C positions in the Excepted Service”
  • And last but not least…“any other officials who serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority”

I really love the first and the last items on the list.

Will someone please define “limited circumstances” and “at the pleasure of the appointing authority” for me?  

At this point, I really believe Donald issues these orders simply to get headlines and to rally gullible base of mindless supporters who can’t or won’t read the entire Order.

Now let’s get back to the supposed intent of the Memorandum…

Despite Trump’s propensity to add loopholes, there are two really great directives/rules that are worthy of praise.

First, Trump orders that within 90 days of this Memorandum, the “Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in consultation with the Director of OPM, shall recommend a long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.”

Second, even though Trump created a bunch of loopholes as listed above, he closes the biggest loophole of all by adding, “Contracting outside the Government to circumvent the intent of this memorandum shall not be permitted.”

After instructing his team to “seek efficient use of existing personnel and funds to improve public services and the delivery of these services”, Donald encourages them to reallocate resources to ensure “essential services are not interrupted and national security is not affected.”

The rest of the Memorandum excludes positions required by law, and acknowledges that there may be collective bargaining agreements in place that must be honored.


Despite the lack of substance (again) caused by the broad exceptions introduced by Trump himself, the intent of the hiring freeze seems to make sense.

I’m happy to see Trump ordered a long-term plan.

I’m glad to see the freeze expires when the plan takes effect.

Click here to read my reviews on other Executive Actions & Orders

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1 Comment on EM – 1/23/17: Presidential Memorandum Regarding the Hiring Freeze

  1. I admit–I’m staring blankly at the computer right now (granted, I’m tired after this crazy week), and now I’m putting my right pointer finger between my lips and moving it up and down making a funny low toned noise that now bounces. I never knew what you call that, but it feels about right to do just that. Sheesh–it’s going to be a long few years til the next election picking and poring over everything that comes out of Dump land.

    Thanks for doing it, though. It’s been an informative ride so far.

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