With his recent executive order regarding changes to the merit-based federal workforce, Donald J. Trump is attempting to bring back the spoils system. You remember the spoils system, don't you? No? Maybe that is because the Pendleton Act of 1883 was intended to bring Civil Service reform and replace the spoils system of filling federal government positions by rewarding political supporters. The Pendleton Act introduced a merit-based non-political system. I believe President James A. Garfield was even assassinated by a disgruntled civil servant.
True, today there are still political appointees – think Louis DeJoy and the Post Office or Gordon Sondland in the European Union– but the executive order by Trump attempts to corrupt the entire system. It was just a few weeks ago when Attorney General William Barr incredibly said that you can't trust career federal employees, just political appointees. Yes, he actually said that.
The executive order just released by Trump is his latest attempt to corrupt the federal workforce. It allows political appointees to remain in their positions past the end of a political term. Maybe he thinks President Joe Biden would want Jared Kushner to stay on as senior adviser. Not likely. The same executive order, and this is significant, also grants agencies the authority to remove career employees involuntarily from career civil service into an unprotected, vulnerable status.
The executive order simply invites even more corruption than Trump has already brought into the federal government. Trump quite obviously is frustrated by the likes of Fiona Hill, Ambassador Bill Taylor, Marie Yovanovich, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, or any other dedicated government employee for that matter, who place their oaths to the Constitution well above any service to Trump's personal agenda. I'm sure Trump is still smarting from his having been impeached, but, rather than alter his impeachable behavior, he has chosen this path of making it easier for him to intimidate and remove career federal employees. This order is so egregious that Ron Sanders resigned in protest. Who is Ron Sanders, you ask. I happened to have worked with Ron Sanders when the newly created Department of Homeland Security was established in 2003. Ron Sanders may very well be the most knowledgeable individual, bar none, - or is it Barr none - regarding the rules and regulations applicable to the federal workforce. Remember Trump's boast about bringing the best and brightest into his administration? Well, he just lost the “Anthony Fauci” of civil service regulations with this highly political and anti-government order.
The executive order, as mentioned, is also intended to allow political appointees to embed themselves as career employees throughout the federal departments and agencies comprising the federal executive branch as it permits the transfer of real careerists into a vulnerable status subject to political coercion and intimidation. Although it is questionable weather this order is even remotely legal as there are merit systems protections throughout the laws governing the federal workforce, this order will certainly have serious ramifications on the morale and the daily workings of the workforce as the issues work their way through the legal system if Trump is given a second term. Think about that as we approach November 3rd.