White House

Trump administration lifts hiring freeze, gives future budget direction

Donovan Slack
White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The federal hiring freeze imposed by President Trump in January is slated to be lifted Wednesday, but agencies won't be allowed to hire willy-nilly, the president's chief budget officer said.

Instead, White House officials expect them to staff up only in areas slated for expansion under the president's budget proposal released last month, for example at the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Other agencies will be expected to downsize, including the Environmental Protection Agency, which under the budget proposal would shed some 3,200 positions — or roughly 20% of its workforce.

"What we're doing tomorrow is replacing the across-the-board hiring freeze that we put into place on day one in office and replacing it with a smarter plan, a more strategic plan, a more surgical plan," said Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Mulvaney was the chief architect of Trump's budget blueprint that proposed deep cuts to education and health care programs and a surge in military spending. That budget proposed the elimination of at least 60 agencies and programs and steep personnel cuts in others.

In a memo he expects to send to agency heads on Wednesday, Mulvaney says they should assess positions as they become vacant to determine whether filling them is in line with the agencies' missions and the president's plan.

More from USA Today:

Trump v. the 'swamp:' Odds favor swamp

Through executive order, Trump aims to make government 'less wasteful'

The 62 agencies and programs Trump wants to eliminate

The memo also outlines steps they should take to formulate plans to make the federal government more efficient, per an order Trump signed last month. That directed Mulvaney to consult with departments and agencies to identify wasteful spending, redundant programs and potential improvements to government services.

Mulvaney also was instructed to consider whether functions should be left to state and local governments or the private sector.

Trump meeting with OMB director Mick Mulvaney
Trump meeting with OMB director Mick Mulvaney

"We have assembled one of the greatest cabinets in history," Trump said in signing the executive order following his first Cabinet meeting. "And we want to empower them to make their agencies as lean and effective as possible and they know how to do it. Today there is duplication and redundancy everywhere. Billions and billions of dollars are being wasted."

Mulvaney said agencies will be expected to submit reports to his office in September, and his staff will include the final plans for proposed restructuring in Trump's budget next year.

He cast the effort as a top-to-bottom look at what the federal government would look like if you rebuilt it from scratch.

Most every president in modern history has tried and largely failed to overhaul the federal government after running into resistance from Congress. President Barack Obama in 2012 proposed merging parts of six agencies and cutting more than 1,000 federal jobs, but the proposal went nowhere on Capitol Hill.

"We're hopeful to have congressional buy-in," Mulvaney said.