Aug 17, 2022 - News

D.C.'s federal workforce fears Schedule F

Photo illustration of President Trump pointing with an image of a person carrying a box of office supplies
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former President Trump’s plan to weed out government employees who aren’t aligned with his policies has struck fear in the local rank and file.

What’s happening: Federal unions and other organizations supporting workers are pushing back against the so-called Schedule F plan and widely supporting legislation that would protect the government's merit-based employment system.

Why it matters: Schedule F would make it easier to fire as many as 50,000 federal workers deemed to have some influence over policy, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported, and a large number of those employees are based in D.C.

Context: The metro area is home to roughly 300,000 federal workers. Partnership for Public Service CEO Max Stier tells Axios that Schedule F “is relevant for the full [U.S.] workforce…but is going to have a higher proportional concern here,” because more of the federal leadership is local.

Zoom in: James Sherk, a former Heritage Foundation fellow who ascended to Trump’s Domestic Policy Council, masterminded Schedule F. He plumbed U.S. code for ways to fire federal employees deemed part of the resistance so they could be replaced with party loyalists. 

  • The plan would upend the nonpartisan civil service in place since the late 1800s. And the impact could go well beyond typical conservative targets such as the Environmental Protection Agency and IRS, also touching the Justice Department, State Department, and Pentagon.

What they’re saying: Firing career feds and instituting patronage government would further politicize the federal workforce, which some argue is already too politicized. 

In fact, the prospect of Schedule F is re-igniting calls to decrease appointments to create a more professionalized workforce — one argument being that the slow Senate confirmation process can hinder government effectiveness. 

  • “If a political [appointee] tries to do something that’s illegal or unethical, the career staff needs to be able to step up and say ‘Hey, this is wrong,’” says National Federation of Federal Employees executive director Steve Lenkart. 

Between the lines: The federal government competes with the private sector for talent, and there’s concern that Schedule F would push workers to seek other jobs or retire early.

  • Roughly half of the federal workforce is eligible for retirement, according to Lenkart.
  • “You 100% have to worry about critical talent leaving,” Stier says.

Zoom out: Government employers overall have struggled to keep up with the private sector during the pandemic, and are having a hard time hiring. 

Threat level: Even if Trump doesn’t win back the White House, Schedule F could become a reality. A number of other potential GOP White House contenders are backing it. 

  • “We need to do more to hold the D.C. bureaucracy accountable,” former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Axios. “Great employees need to be rewarded and underperformers shown the door.”
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