The Trump administration’s Schedule F executive order aimed at making it easier to hire and fire career civil servants in policy roles, but it sparked an intense backlash. Critics argued it would lead to a partisan purge of nonpartisan experts, and the Biden Administration is now responding by essentially banning similar efforts going forward. Yet the hysteria over Schedule F is overblown. It stems from a widely-believed myth that federal policymaking is guided by apolitical expertise. Once that myth is dispelled, the numerous benefits of Schedule F and similar reforms come to light.
In October of 2020, former President Trump signed an executive order to create a new employment category called “Schedule F” for federal civil service employees. The order would have moved tens of thousands of career civil servants into a new category without longstanding protections against firing without cause.
The order applied to employees in policy, public relations, some legal roles, and other positions of a “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character.” Just as occurs in the private sector, employees in the new Schedule F category could be fired with little to no notice.
Critics, such as the Biden White House, characterized Schedule F as an attempt “to burrow political appointees into the civil service.” They worried it would essentially turn civil servants into political appointees that change with each administration. Meanwhile, supporters said it would make the federal workforce more efficient and responsive to the administration’s priorities.
This issue is especially important for Republicans, who worry a “deep state” actively undermines their agenda when they obtain power. The overwhelming majority of political donations from federal workers go to Democrats, and the obvious attempts to undermine Trump’s agenda while he was president have led many to worry that the current stock of federal workers are incapable of fulfilling their duties in good faith.
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