The White House ended its governmentwide federal hiring freeze earlier this week, but some agencies said they would continue the freeze, at least for some period of time.
The State Department announced Thursday that Secretary Rex Tillerson had extended the moratorium until it develops a plan to restructure itself. The Broadcasting Board of Governors is also declining to hire until at least May 1, its CEO and Director John Lansing wrote in an email to employees obtained by Government Executive.
Both agencies said it was necessary to continue the freeze in light of new guidance from the Office of Management and Budget requiring agencies to create both short-term and long-term plans to reduce their workforces and reshape their organizational structures. OMB lifted the freeze on Wednesday, 79 days after its institution, but Director Mick Mulvaney cautioned agencies against hiring “willy nilly.” He advised agencies to take a smarter, more strategic approach to filling vacancies.
Mark Toner, a State spokesman, said at a press briefing Thursday the freeze would continue “across the board,” including both civil servants and Foreign Service officers (Toner said he was not sure about political appointees).
“This is just part of prudent planning,” Toner said. “We can’t be onboarding people when we don’t know what our reorganization is ultimately going to look like.” Toner did not suggest an end date for the freeze, saying it would “continue until [State’s reorganization] plan is fully developed and agreement is reached on its implementation.” Agencies have until June 30 to submit preliminary, high-level plans, and until Sept. 30 to release their final proposals.
Toner explained that Tillerson had jurisdiction to pause hiring unilaterally and emphasized the secretary will make exceptions with positions related to “national security interests and the department’s core mission and responsibilities.”
In his memo to employees, Lansing said his team at BBG is “studying the requirements” of OMB’s guidance and how it will impact the agency’s operations. He said the lack of an appropriations bill for the remainder of fiscal 2017 has created additional uncertainty, adding BBG must “act responsibly” with regard to hiring and keep “an eye toward prudent business practices.” By extending the freeze until May 1, Lansing said he could buy time to at least figure out its upcoming spending level.
“While I realize that this may have an impact in some work areas over the short term, I firmly believe that it will not impact either our ability to fully carry out BBG’s mission or the culture of excellence that defines our agency,” Lansing wrote. “Despite recent fiscal challenges, we have excelled in our priority areas and, as a team, I know that we will remain strong and impactful.”
BBG’s freeze will also apply across the board, including for positions in which the agency has selected candidates.
Mulvaney said on Tuesday the freeze was intended as a temporary pause while a new executive team evaluated its enterprise. Ending the freeze, he explained, would allow “something that’s more practicable” and a “more surgical plan.” An OMB spokesman said Friday the agency would not engage in “micromanaging.”
“Agencies are free to achieve the president's priorities of a lean, accountable and effective government however they please within the guidelines set out,” the spokesman said.
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