OMB seeks to reclassify workforce under Schedule F

The agency is gearing up to make 88% of its positions subject to at-will employment.

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A senior official at the Office of Management and Budget confirmed that the agency is proposing to reclassify 425 positions under the new Schedule F designation which removes most civil service protections and makes it possible to hire and fire federal employees virtually at will. That covers 88% of OMB's workforce.

The news was first reported by Real Clear Politics.

Schedule F was created by an executive order last month. The order represents an administrative overhaul of the competitive civil services, making senior agency roles, policymaking positions, scientific and evidence-gathering jobs and other key roles subject to new hiring and termination rules. Individuals holding Schedule F positions are not eligible for union membership. The order called on agencies to submit a preliminary review of positions to the Office of Personnel Management and petition for reclassification. The deadline for that preliminary review is Jan. 19, 2021 – one day before the presidential inauguration.

"This is a shameful and vindictive action," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in a statement released about the OMB assessment. "I look forward to working with the incoming Biden administration to reverse this executive order and rebuild the civil service protections President Trump has violated."

OPM did not respond to an email from FCW asking if other agencies had submitted requests for reclassification ahead of the deadline.

A Nov. 23 bicameral letter from Reps. Connolly and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) to the head of the Government Accountability Office seeks oversight of the Trump administration's use and possible abuse of Schedule F.

The executive order, they wrote, "could expedite the hiring of political appointees into jobs without regard to merit and place them in roles best served by career civil servants…[and] multiply the number of political appointees within the federal workforce by tens of thousands and permit the mass firing of current federal employees whom agency heads determine make 'substantive contributions to executive branch policy.'"

The lawmakers are also concerned about the conversion of Schedule C positions – another category of employment exempted from the competitive service – into Schedule F, potentially facilitating the "burrowing in" of policy advisors into the larger bureaucracy. They're looking for GAO to brief lawmakers on OPM's moves to implement the executive order.

Additionally, more than 20 federal employee and management organizations and governance groups are urging Congress to block funding for the implementation of Schedule F, a new category of federal employees not subject to civil service protections. The signees of a Nov. 20 letter, asked appropriators to include limitations of funds language in any omnibus appropriations bill or continuing resolution, writing that, "the need for Congress to act is urgent, especially as we are in the midst of a transition."

The current continuing resolution funding the federal government expires Dec. 11, and lawmakers are expected to make an urgent push for appropriations legislation after the Thanksgiving recess. Eliminating the implementation of Schedule F by an appropriations rider is reportedly under consideration by Democratic lawmakers.