Fear and loathing over Schedule F and 50,000 federal jobs

What is Schedule F?

Schedule F does not exist. But despite its non-existence, it has evoked a rush of fear and revulsion in the media and among Democrats and their other political allies. Here’s the background.

On October 21, 2020, then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order to “establish Schedule F in the Excepted Service.”

The executive order would have removed some federal positions from competitive service. The positions affected would have been those of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-shaping or policy-supporting nature. These posts are often filled by people who are not normally replaced when a new president takes office.

You would be exempt from both the competitive hiring rules and adverse action procedures under Chapter 75 of Title 5 of the United States Code.

The reason for the Trump executive order was the lack of accountability of the federal workforce.

… I find that the conditions of good administration call for an exception to competitive recruitment rules and examinations for federal service careers that are confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating in character … exempted services mitigate undue restrictions on their selection. This measure will also give agencies more power and discretion to assess critical characteristics of applicants for these positions, such as: B. Work ethic, good judgment and ability to meet the agency’s unique needs.

Unfortunately, the government’s current performance management is inadequate, as recognized by federal employees themselves. For example, the 2016 Merit Principles Survey shows that less than a quarter of federal employees believe their agency is effective in addressing underperformers.

On January 21, 2021, the day after his inauguration, incoming President Joe Biden rescinded that executive order. It was one of his first acts as President.

His quick action came as no surprise. As The hill reports, this executive order would have been “the largest change in federal labor protections in a century, transforming many federal employees into employment at will.”

Schedule F reappears, raising fears about the future

At the end of July an article with the title appeared A radical plan for Trump’s second term appeared in Axios. The article focused on Schedule F and Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is likely to run again to try to become the Republican presidential nominee. He did not make that announcement, but there are strong indications that this is his intention. If he runs, he may (or may not) secure the nomination within the Republican Party. And should he become the nominee, there is no guarantee that he will win the election again, as there are numerous strong opponents in the press and in the Republican Party against his nomination. Donald Trump is controversial and other Republicans may have a better chance of winning.

The Axios article struck fear in the hearts of reporters and the federal establishment. Within days, several pages appeared on a search engine, largely explaining the fear surrounding the possibility of Schedule F (re)emerging to reshape the federal workforce.

Democrats and their allies (mainly federal employee unions) quickly rallied around efforts to halt the resurgence of Schedule F as quickly as possible and take action ahead of the midterm elections that could result in a change in control of the House and Senate.

Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), chair of the subcommittee overseeing federal civil service. He was so concerned about Schedule F that he appended an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act to prevent a possible Schedule F revival. The House of Representatives passed the amendment, but Republicans can block it in the Senate.

On August 2, 2022, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and several other Democrats introduced themselves The law to prevent a patronage system. In a press release, Senator Kaine said the bill was “legislation that would prevent a federal civil service position from being reclassified outside of the principles of the merit system without the express consent of Congress.” This bill would secure public service and protect tens of thousands of federal employees from losing job security and due process rights.”

Why the fear of boring details about the minutiae of government business?

We can be fairly certain that most people would not delve into the intricacies of federal government human resources. It’s a safe bet that very few, not employed as human resources specialists, spend time reading government regulations and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) pronouncements. In my experience, many HR managers only read this stuff when it is absolutely necessary, then when.

What are the arguments on either side of the problem? Why did Donald Trump want Schedule F implemented? Why is there so much dismay about the federal government’s staffing?

Here’s a description of why some see Schedule F as a good idea:

(Appendix F) would have, in the best possible way, fundamentally changed the entire workings of the administrative bureaucracy that governs this country, in a way that bypasses both the legislative and judicial process, and has the controls inherent in the US Constitution and Counterweights ruined….

The gradual rise of this 4th branch of government – which is by far the most powerful branch – has reduced the American political process to a mere theater compared to the real governance that rests with the standing bureaucracy….

(Appendix F) would have brought us closer to reestablishing a constitutional system of government where we have 3 – not 4 – branches of government totally controlled by the people’s representatives. It would have gone a long way in depriving the administrative state of its power and bringing state affairs back under the control of the people….

On the other side of the argument, Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote this about the new legislation that was proposed to stop any implementation of Schedule F:

Job protections for federal employees exist for a reason: no administration can fire professional employees and install their own political officers. Career federal employees are committed to public service and serving the greater good, and they fulfill a number of critical roles from protecting national security to strengthening our country’s pandemic response to protecting our communities. These career federal employees need to be protected from politics in order for them to do their jobs, and that’s what our bill would accomplish.

Perhaps a more articulate argument for the bill was penned by Jeff Neal, a federal human resources expert:

The bill bears the name “Prevention of a Patronage System” because the federal government has experience with a patronage system. Nothing about this experience was good. Prior to the passage of the Pendleton Act in 1883, the federal government was filled with posts of patronage. The loot system meant that every change of administration led to a mad rush for partisans to get a government job. The primary qualification for a job was not experience but politics.

summary

Discussions about Plan F are important and provoke strong reactions, although they are troubling and require some insight into how the federal bureaucracy actually works. One side is concerned about the lack of control over government policy, how it is decided, and the influence of unelected and often invisible decision-makers within the federal government.

On the other side of the discussion, there are concerns about more political officials taking power after a change of government, the lack of continuity in government, the lack of protections for federal employees in their jobs, and the possible rise of a government “booty system.”

Both sides have legitimate concerns. Both sides represent interests related to governance and the influences that shape government policies. The intensity of the argument reflects the underlying importance of the topic.

© 2022 Ralph R Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without the express written permission of Ralph R. Smith.

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