How the Trump era is changing the federal bureaucracy – The Denver Post

By Lisa Rein and Andrew Ba Tran, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Nearly a year into his takeover of Washington, President Donald Trump has made a significant down payment on his campaign pledge to shrink the federal bureaucracy, a shift long sought by conservatives that could eventually bring the workforce down to levels not seen in decades.

By the end of September, all Cabinet agencies except Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior had fewer permanent staff than when Trump took office in January – with most shedding many hundreds of employees, according to an analysis of federal personnel data by The Washington Post.

The diminishing federal footprint comes after Trump promised in last year’s campaign to “cut so much your head will spin,” and it reverses a boost in hiring during the Obama era. The falloff has been driven by an exodus of civil servants, a diminished corps of political appointees and an effective hiring freeze.

Even though Congress did not pass a new budget in his first year, the drastic spending cuts Trump laid out in the spring – which would slash more than 30 percent of funding at some agencies – also has trigged a spending slowdown, according to officials at multiple departments.

The White House is now warning agencies to brace for even deeper cuts in the 2019 budget it will announce early next year, part of an effort to lower the federal deficit to pay for the new tax law, according to officials briefed on the budgets for their agencies. One possible casualty: a pay raise that federal employees historically have received when the economy is humming.

The administration’s effort so far to reshape the workforce of nearly 2 million civil servants that serves as the backbone of the government already has provoked a contentious culture shift.

2017-12-30 21_41_11-trump-government1Federal workers fret their jobs could be zeroed out amid buyouts and early retirement offers that already have prompted hundreds of their colleagues to leave, according to interviews with three dozen employees across the government. Many have chafed as supervisors lay down new rules they say are aimed at holding poor performers and problem workers to account.

A hiring freeze technically lifted in the spring has been kept in practice at most agencies, hollowing out many offices. And the slow pace of political appointments has left a number of departments with a leadership vacuum in their upper ranks.

“Morale has never been lower,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 federal workers at more than 30 agencies. “Government is making itself a lot less attractive as an employer.”

Administration officials said Trump has actually improved employee morale, citing an annual survey of federal workers taken in the spring that showed a slight uptick across most agencies. They said they are streamlining the government to make it leaner and more effective.

In a statement, White House spokesman Raj Shah said Trump “is committed to streamlining government for the 21st century, reducing bloat, duplication and waste, and focusing resources on key priorities like public safety and protecting our nation’s homeland.”

Conservatives who have long pushed for smaller government are cheered by the developments.

“This is going very well,” said anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who famously once quipped that he wanted to shrink government small enough so he could “drown it in the bathtub.”

“Slow and steady – for all the bluster, this is how you downsize government without engendering blowback,” Norquist added.

And some civil servants said they welcome the focus on rooting out waste and holding federal workers to high standards.


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