Select federal agencies are rushing to fill nearly 200 jobs announced after the election and scheduled to stop taking applicants before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. Many of those positions have responsibilities that could influence policy decisions.
The Obama administration agreed to impose a hiring freeze beginning Dec. 1, according to incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Similarly, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a moratorium on Dec. 7 that forbade hiring senior executives or promoting non-senior executive service officials.
But a list of nearly 200 job announcements compiled from USAJobs.gov appears to contradict those statements. Most of those are within the Department of the Interior (DOI) and its subagencies, though some are for U.S. Forest Service and National Oceanic Atmospheric Association positions.
Obama administration appointees thus appear to be filling hundreds of key policy-influencing positions before Trump takes office and his staff can hire their own personnel.
Additionally, 35 of the job announcements oddly only accepted applications for between a two and four day period. Two openings are for Senior Executive Service positions that violate the White House Office of Management’s directive.
One of the SES slots – a DOI associate deputy director position – was listed just 10 days after the election and closes one day before Trump’s inauguration. The other – an assistant director opening in the Fish and Wildlife Services – was listed the day after the White House order, and closed Dec. 22. It’s unclear if the position was filled.
The supposed freeze on SES hires is standard during presidential transitions and is intended to allow the incoming administration “to make or approve executive hiring decisions that will impact the agency’s performance,” OMB spokeswoman Shannon Buckingham previously told The Washington Post.
Other roles among the positions could also influence policy decisions.
One opening for a Bureau of Land Management specialist would review “grazing permits to ensure compliance with appropriate federal law.” The Bureau of Indian Affairs is seeking a specialist to negotiate and resolve problems with contracts and grants issued under the Indian Self-Determination and Education and Assistance Act of 1975.
Both officials would interpret and implement federal laws. Other open positions would have responsibilities over forest management and protection and supervision of certain mining activities.
The Washington Post previously reported that federal agencies were scrambling to fill vacancies, despite the Obama administration’s agreement to freeze hiring.
The Fish and Wildlife Service ordered human resources officials to cancel holiday vacations to quickly make offers to and process new hires, The Post reported.
“I’m going to do everything I can to hire that person before” Trump’s promised hiring freeze “comes into effect,” agency chief Dan Ashe told The Post.
“Federal agencies have the authority to hire at will if it is necessary to carry out their mission and if their budget allows for onboarding personnel,” Office of Personnel Management spokesman Samuel Schumach told The Post.
“They’ve given the appearance of working constructively to facilitate the transition. That commitment apparently hasn’t trickled down to the department level,” said Molly Block, a spokesman for the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Neither DOI nor the U.S. Forest Service returned requests for comment. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Association declined to comment and deferred to the Office of Personnel Management, which also did not respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.
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