Federal Hiring Freeze: More Questions than Answers
On January 23rd, President Trump issued a memorandum ordering an across-the-board hiring freeze on all federal agencies, with the exception of military personnel. That means any vacancies within the federal civilian workforce that were vacant as of noon, January 22nd, are not to be filled unless the start date is before February 22nd. Another stipulation: no new positions may be created. Government contractors cannot be used to fill existing vacant positions in the federal government as well.
Some positions will be exempt from the hiring freeze, but they are strictly limited to jobs that are necessary to meet “national security” needs or “public safety responsibilities.” Due to the vague nature of the President’s memo, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its own guidance on February 1st clarifying which positions would be considered exempt from the hiring freeze. Unfortunately, the DoD’s clarification of exemptions to the freeze left more questions than answers.
So what does that mean for the military community?
Think of all of the programs you have utilized over time as a military family--the Family Service Center, Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), Commissary, Exchange, Child Development Center, Youth Sports, Education Center, and Employment Assistance. All of these programs are staffed with civilian federal workers. If these positions are vacated and the programs aren’t permitted to hire replacements, they will have no choice but to reduce their hours and/or their services altogether.
Some support programs are exempt from the hiring freeze, but we believe additional clarification is still needed. For example, the DoD guidance states that “positions providing child care to the children of military personnel” are exempt from the freeze.
And what of the 168 installation schools serving more than 73,000 military connected students?
NMFA reached out to the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) and learned the school system is not exempt. However, since there is a process to request and justify an exemption, DoDEA will be submitting a request to keep their schools staffed and operational.
When dual-income military families PCS, spouses don’t always have their choice of employment options. Depending on the location of the duty station, spouses often find themselves seeking employment aboard their new installation. This is especially true in rural areas, where the local community doesn’t have as many job opportunities available. As we begin to see the full impact of this hiring freeze, it’s possible military spouse employment will become an even bigger issue that will need to be addressed.
The number of service members transitioning to civilian life will also find their own employment options begin to dwindle. Federal employment after military service has been a go-to option for veterans. Throughout their Transition Readiness Seminar, separating service members are pushed towards considering federal employment due to their skills and experience. The veteran community already struggles with employment after military service, and this hiring freeze would appear to shrink their opportunities even further.
The DoD guidance also mentions positions directly providing inpatient care and/or acute and emergency outpatient care in Military Treatment Facilities will be exempt from the hiring freeze to the “extent necessary,” as well as any positions involving communicable disease prevention and similar public health activities.
How will this hiring freeze impact access standards and quality medical care for military families? Will there be longer pharmacy wait times? Will it be more difficult to schedule an appointment? What will happen to the Military Health System reform on the horizon?
For so many military families, there are far more questions than answers.
Our elected leadership has already made it clear that they are looking to increase the number of troops in 2017. If this happens, support services will need to increase as the number of service members increase in order to maintain strong family readiness standards. Because without a ready family, we simply cannot have a ready force.
Posted February 7, 2017