President-elect Donald Trump wouldn’t be the first commander in chief to impose a hiring freeze on federal agencies. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both tried it, but the policy didn’t do much to reign in government. In fact, it proved counterproductive to their aims. That’s according to a 34-year-old Government Accountability Office report 106 Democratic lawmakers dusted off in an appeal to Trump to reconsider his plan for a governmentwide hiring freeze.
Trump pledged to institute the freeze—exempting military, public safety and public health personnel—back in October as one element of his 100-Day Plan to Make America Great Again, noting that the freeze was one of six measures designed specifically to “clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington.”
But in a letter to Trump, the lawmakers said a governmentwide hiring freeze would have the opposite effect:
“Firstly, the impact of hiring freezes enacted during previous Republican and Democratic administrations demonstrates that such measures have not, in fact, significantly reduced the size of our federal workforce or enhanced federal government operations. Rather, they have served to decrease efficiency, transparency, and accountability governmentwide at the expense of the public safety and American taxpayer dollars. Similar to your proposal, these hiring freezes included general human safety and other exemptions.”
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., who led the effort, said, “Mr. Trump’s plan will merely increase the number of private contractors and negatively affect the traditional federal employees who keep our agencies running. There is no question that we need to reduce costs within our government, but a hiring freeze will do the opposite.”
Not all lawmakers share that view. In December, two Senate Republicans asked President Obama to immediately institute a hiring freeze before Trump takes office—both to prevent agencies from going on hiring sprees before the inauguration and to prevent Obama appointees from unfairly taking career federal jobs.