Trump’s New E.O. Launches Wrecking Ball at the Civil Service

 

On October 21, Trump issued an Executive Order on Creating Schedule F In The Excepted Service:

“Pursuant to my authority under section 3302(1) of title 5, United States Code, I find that conditions of good administration make necessary an exception to the competitive hiring rules and examinations for career positions in the Federal service of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character. These conditions include the need to provide agency heads with additional flexibility to assess prospective appointees without the limitations imposed by competitive service selection procedures. Placing these positions in the excepted service will mitigate undue limitations on their selection. This action will also give agencies greater ability and discretion to assess critical qualities in applicants to fill these positions, such as work ethic, judgment, and ability to meet the particular needs of the agency. These are all qualities individuals should have before wielding the authority inherent in their prospective positions, and agencies should be able to assess candidates without proceeding through complicated and elaborate competitive service processes or rating procedures that do not necessarily reflect their particular needs.”
[..]
Schedule F. Positions of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character not normally subject to change as a result of a Presidential transition shall be listed in Schedule F. In appointing an individual to a position in Schedule F, each agency shall follow the principle of veteran preference as far as administratively feasible.”

FedWeek notes that the “estimates of the potential number of employees affected range from the tens of thousands to 100,000 or more.”
The Partnership for Public Service released a statement that says in part ““Our civil service is the envy of the world and must be strengthened and enhanced. Without strong safeguards, the risk of hiring and firing for political reasons is high. The president’s executive order creating a new Schedule F job classification is deeply troubling and has the potential to impact wide swaths of federal employees over the next few months without engagement from Congress, civil servants and other key stakeholders.”
On October 27, 2020, H.R. 8687: To nullify the Executive Order entitled “Executive Order on Creating Schedule F In The Excepted Service”, and for other purposes was introduced in Congress. Of course, this bill must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then signed by the President to become law.
The new E.O. which amends the Civil Service rule, requires a preliminary review of positions covered within 90 days of the issuance of the order, that places the due date on January 19, 2020, a day before the presidential inauguration of 2021. A complete review is due within 210 days, which is August 19, 2021. Agency heads will determine which positions should be placed in Schedule F category:

Sec. 5. Agency Actions. (a) Each head of an executive agency (as defined in section 105 of title 5, United States Code, but excluding the Government Accountability Office) shall conduct, within 90 days of the date of this order, a preliminary review of agency positions covered by subchapter II of chapter 75 of title 5, United States Code, and shall conduct a complete review of such positions within 210 days of the date of this order. Thereafter, each agency head shall conduct a review of agency positions covered by subchapter II of chapter 75 of title 5, United States Code, on at least an annual basis. Following such reviews each agency head shall:

(i) for positions not excepted from the competitive service by statute, petition the Director to place in Schedule F any such competitive service, Schedule A, Schedule B, or Schedule D positions within the agency that the agency head determines to be of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character and that are not normally subject to change as a result of a Presidential transition. Any such petition shall include a written explanation documenting the basis for the agency head’s determination that such position should be placed in Schedule F; and

(ii) for positions excepted from the competitive service by statute, determine which such positions are of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character and are not normally subject to change as a result of a Presidential transition. The agency head shall publish this determination in the Federal Register. Such positions shall be considered Schedule F positions for the purposes of agency actions under sections 5(d) and 6 of this order.
[…]
(b) The requirements set forth in subsection (a) of this section shall apply to currently existing positions and newly created positions.

(c) When conducting the review required by subsection (a) of this section, each agency head should give particular consideration to the appropriateness of either petitioning the Director to place in Schedule F or including in the determination published in the Federal Register, as applicable, positions whose duties include the following:

(i) substantive participation in the advocacy for or development or formulation of policy, especially:

(A) substantive participation in the development or drafting of regulations and guidance; or

(B) substantive policy-related work in an agency or agency component that primarily focuses on policy;

(ii) the supervision of attorneys;

(iii) substantial discretion to determine the manner in which the agency exercises functions committed to the agency by law;

(iv) viewing, circulating, or otherwise working with proposed regulations, guidance, executive orders, or other non-public policy proposals or deliberations generally covered by deliberative process privilege and either:

(A) directly reporting to or regularly working with an individual appointed by either the President or an agency head who is paid at a rate not less than that earned by employees at Grade 13 of the General Schedule; or

(B) working in the agency or agency component executive secretariat (or equivalent); or

(v) conducting, on the agency’s behalf, collective bargaining negotiations under chapter 71 of title 5, United States Code.

(d) The Director shall promptly determine whether to grant any petition under subsection (a) of this section. Not later than December 31 of each year, the Director shall report to the President, through the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, concerning the number of petitions granted and denied for that year for each agency.

It looks like they expect that this would be challenged in court:

(d) If any provision of this order, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstances, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this order and the application of any of its other provisions to any other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.

On October 23, 2020, OPM issued a memo with Instructions on Implementing Schedule F.

This Executive Order excepts from the competitive service positions that are of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character, typically filled by individuals not normally subject to replacement or change as a result of a Presidential transition. As a result of this Executive Order, such positions will be rescheduled into the newly created Schedule F and exempt from both the competitive hiring rules as well as the adverse action procedures set forth in chapter 75 of title 5 of the United States Code.
[..]
The Executive Order directs each agency head to review positions within his or her agency and identify those positions appropriately categorized as confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating, and then petition OPM to place those positions in Schedule F. Agencies have 90 days to conduct a preliminary review of positions and submit petitions, with an additional 120 days to finalize that review and submit any remaining petitions.

If Biden wins, how quickly do you think this E.O. gets rescinded?
If there is a Trump second term, we expect that the wrecking ball now directed at the Civil Service will soon extend to all parts of the federal service.
Go VOTE!

Jamaica: A U.S. Ambassador’s Apology and One Convoluted Story About That Twitter Wrestling

 

The Twitter Wrestling news out of Jamaica continue to distract us from our never ending woes, (see Top US Diplomat in Jamaica Wrestles With Random People on Twitter).  The tweets have now been deleted with no explanation.
We have it in good authority that the Jamaicans were plenty upset about this. The Twitter spectacle apparently resulted in a telephone call between the Jamaican Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith and Ambassador Tapia.  The Foreign Minister also tweeted “I have spoken with the Ambassador and he is aware that the engagement was not appropriate for a diplomatic representative.”
Ouch!
Ambassador Tapia on the other hand has now given an interview to Cliff Hughes Online where he said “I take full responsibility for what took place”  but that it wasn’t him who did the wrestling on Twitter.  That sounds a lot like “I take full responsibility. It’s not my fault” doesn’t it?   It wasn’t the intern either, thank goodness! The ambassador, a political appointee, also told the interviewer that the individual, (a he) will be “leaving shortly, because it was inappropriate” according to the interview with Cliff Hughes Online posted here.
In that interview, Ambassador Tapia discussed the employee who purportedly sent the offensive tweets under his account and was asked “What do you mean by rotating him out?”
Ambassador Tapia responded with extreme helpfulness (pardon our attempt at transcription, the zigzagged response made us frankly, dizzy):
“Which means that he will be leaving by going back to the U.S.”
Then Ambassador Tapia added, “He just got here, just about 3 or 4 weeks ago …. so he will normally stay …. he’s married … he goes home … we tried to rotate him every two months so that he can go home and be with his family but he will be, I will say he will be leaving sooner than the rotation.”
What the what?
So we are to believe that a Public Affairs officer (typically in charge of media), a career employee trained in media and public relations just decided one day to throw his career to the Caribbean winds, and go on an insult spree directed at his host county nationals?
Seriously? Why would he do that?
And that now this purported rogue officer is to be rotated out? Rotated out after four weeks in country?
If the employee assigned to Embassy Jamaica just got there 3 or 4 weeks ago and is now directed to return to the United States, that’s not called a rotation. That’s a curtailment, a shortening of the assignment, and presumably an involuntary one.  An ambassador can initiate that if he/she declares loss of confidence on any employee.
How it is that this employee just got to post 3 or 4 weeks ago, but that they  also “tried” to rotate him every two months so that he can go home and be with his family? How did that work?  And pray tell, what kind of employment schedule is this?
We’re not liking this story one bit, folks; it’s not hanging well together even at the thin seams.