On Jan. 23, President Trump signed an executive order instituting a 90-day federal hiring freeze, as the first step in a "long-term plan" to cut the federal workforce. It's unclear how far along that plan is, but 79 days into his presidency, the effects of Trump's freeze are already being felt at government agencies like the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Affairs Department, and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday — and the public is starting to feel the reduced staffing levels, too.
Federal agencies lose about 10 percent of their workforce each year, and the VA has an unusually large 45,000 positions unfilled. VA Secretary David Shulkin exempted jobs tied to processing benefits claims in mid-March, six weeks into the freeze, but there are now more than 100,000 claims awaiting processing. Veterans have also been hit hard, The Journal notes, because the federal government often hires them after their military service.
At the Social Security Administration, an inability to replace the workforce after departures, combined with a rise in claims as baby boomers retire, has led to longer lines at offices and on the phone. "The agency is doing things they never did before, like sending people home without any service," Witold Skwierczynski, president of a union that represents 25,000 Social Security employees, tells The Wall Street Journal. "You can't just establish a hiring freeze and expect us to continue to do all our work."
At the U.S. prisons bureau, about 10 percent of positions are vacant, and the widespread shortages are forcing prison guards and medical personnel to work overtime and at higher personal risk. According to USA Today, nurses, physical therapists, and other medical staff — many of whom belong to the uniformed U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) and have no training for security in overcrowded prisons — are being forced into guard and security duties. (USA Today also noted that despite the terrible conditions face by workers and inmates, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons awarded more than $2 million in bonuses to wardens and top administrators over the past three years.)
The result of Trump's hiring freeze, WSJ says, is that "in attempting to fulfill one campaign promise — to 'drain the swamp' and reduce the size of the federal government — Mr. Trump is potentially undermining other promises, including his pledges to champion veterans and law enforcement." You can read more at The Wall Street Journal.