The Biden administration’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has proposed a rule that aims to strengthen job protections for federal employees and resist future attempts to cut the size of the federal workforce. This move is seen as a response to former President Donald Trump’s executive order that aimed to strip certain federal employees of their civil service protections.
Under Trump’s executive order, a new job category, Schedule F, was created for federal employees, particularly those who exerted any influence over policy. The directive would have made these employees “at will,” removing their civil service protections and making them easier to fire. However, this order was rescinded by President Joe Biden after he took office.
The proposed rule by the OPM stipulates that any federal employee shifted from the competitive service to the excepted service will retain “the status and civil service protections they had already accrued.” It also clarifies the definition of which employees have influence over policy to mean “noncareer, political appointments.”
In a press release, the OPM said, “The previous Administration issued an executive order to alter the long-standing system that ensures that decisions to hire and fire career civil servants are based on merit and not loyalty to the President.”
The proposal comes at a time when Republican presidential candidates are promising to reduce the size of the federal bureaucracy if elected. For instance, Vivek Ramaswamy has pledged to cut more than 1 million jobs and ultimately 75 percent of the federal workforce over four years, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis plans to start cutting jobs from day one of his presidency.
Critics argue that the OPM’s proposal is politically motivated, aiming to protect partisan and poorly performing employees from being removed. They point out that civil service employees are supposed to be nonpartisan, but that a significant number are not.