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White House to lift federal hiring freeze

The White House will lift President Trump’s federal hiring freeze on Wednesday following fire from critics who said it hampered the government from carrying out core functions. 

The end of the freeze is part of guidance ordering federal departments and agencies to submit restructuring plans to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the fall. 

“It does not mean the agencies will be free to hire willy-nilly,” OMB Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters Tuesday. 

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“What we’re doing tomorrow is replacing the across-the-board hiring freeze that was put in place on day one and replacing it with a smarter plan, a more strategic plan, a more surgical plan.”

Trump signed an executive order on his first full work day in the White House that temporarily halted all non-military federal hiring, an attempt to fulfill his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” and reduce the size of government. 

But the freeze resulted in an increased backlog of benefits claims at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department, which Trump pledged to strengthen during the campaign. 

It also created delays in the processing of Social Security checks, staff shortages at federal prisons, the closure of childcare facilities at military bases and fewer workers at the Food and Drug Administration to work on drug approvals.

Mulvaney did not say how many vacancies in the federal government would be filled after the freeze is lifted. 

The VA and Department of Defense, which would receive funding increases under Trump’s budget proposal, could hire more workers, according to Mulvaney. Others whose budgets would be cut, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, likely would not be able to staff up. 

The budget director denied that the move violates Trump’s promises of cutting and streamlining the federal government. 

The memorandum requires all agencies to “begin taking immediate actions” to reduce the size of their workforces over the long term and achieve the savings called for in Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget. 

Agency heads must develop a plan to “maximize employee performance” by June 30 and submit a final version of that plan to the White House budget office by September. 

Mulvaney said that could involve the elimination or consolidation of duplicative offices and agencies. 

Those changes would be adopted in Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget. 

“This is a big part of draining the swamp,” Mulvaney said Tuesday. “Really, what you’re talking about doing is restructuring Washington, D.C. That is how you drain the swamp.”