Dec 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

How Trump shifted the federal workforce for his policies

Percentage change in federal government workforce during Trump administration, by agency
Data: Partnership for Public Service; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The federal workforce shifted in ways that aligned with Donald Trump's policy priorities during his four years as president, new data shared exclusively with Axios show.

Why it matters: Control over the 2.1 million-strong federal civilian workforce — the largest in the country — is a potent but often overlooked tool for presidents to shift policy.

By the numbers: The biggest shift, by far, took place at the Office of Personnel Management: the workforce was slashed by more than half in 2019.

  • That was largely the result of a Trump executive order transferring the federal employee background check process from OPM to the Defense Department.
  • It occurred as Trump critics accused him of attempting to illegally "dismantle" the federal personnel agency.
  • The Labor Department, National Labor Relations Board and the Federal Labor Relations Authority also saw sizable workforce dips during Trump's tenure.

On the other side of the ledger, agencies aligned with his priorities — such as immigration and trade — saw employment bumps.

  • The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative grew during all four years and saw the largest percentage bump of any agency over that time. The International Trade Commission also boosted its workforce substantially.
  • The Department of Homeland Security, key to Trump-led immigration crackdowns, also grew during all four years.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of the Navy got workforce bumps as well, largely outpacing federal hiring generally.
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