Transition Officials: The Hiring Freeze Is Just One Way Trump Will Cut Government

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally in North Carolina. President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally in North Carolina. Gerry Broome/AP

President-elect Donald Trump is still not offering any details on his proposed federal hiring freeze, though his transition team promised more information in the coming weeks.

Transition officials said on Thursday the freeze would number among several policies aimed a cutting the size of government that Trump will announce before he is sworn into office. The Trump team will put the proposals forward “as inauguration comes closer,” the officials said.

“The president-elect has sent clear signals that he will go after the size of government,” they added.

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In October, Trump pledged to institute a governmentwide hiring freeze on his first day in office with the goal of reducing the federal workforce through attrition. He said he would exempt employees working in the military, public safety and public health, but has yet to spell out exactly which positions would be frozen.

President Ronald Reagan, as his first act after being sworn in as head of the executive branch -- and as legend has it, before he even left the Capitol Building following his inauguration -- signed a memorandum addressed to heads of executive departments and agencies ordering a “strict freeze” on the hiring of civilian federal employees. Reagan’s order went into effect immediately. The Republican tasked his Office of Management and Budget director with issuing guidance that provided “exemptions in those rare and unusual circumstances where exemptions are necessary for the delivery of essential services.”

Transition officials on Thursday noted they have passed the halfway marker on naming Cabinet nominees. While some Obama administration officials have complained Trump is focused too heavily on top-level nominations and not on the hands-on, beneath-the-surface work, the president-elect’s transition team boasted it has deployed 175 individuals to agency landing teams. It will announce 40 additional team members this week, the officials said.

Transition experts who helped create multiple new laws to institutionalize the process said Trump was already behind schedule in the immediate weeks following his election.

“This is sad,” said Ted Kaufman, a former Democratic senator who helped pass the 2010 Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act and whose name is on the 2015 Edward “Ted” Kaufman and Michael Leavitt Presidential Transitions Improvements Act that Obama signed in March. “It’s sad in terms of difficulties it’s going to provide for this administration."

While Trump has remained largely in his New York home to conduct interviews and informational discussions, Vice President-elect Mike Pence has regularly traveled to Washington, D.C., to hold meetings at the official Trump transition office. Transition officials said the Indiana governor was again at the D.C. office on Thursday. 

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