Udall, Heinrich, Luján, Lujan Grisham Urge President Trump to Reverse Federal Hiring Freeze

WASHINGTON D.C. –  U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)  and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) urged President Trump to reverse his executive order that freezes all federal hiring, to ensure that fundamental government services are not negatively impacted and hard-working, well-qualified New Mexicans, many of whom are veterans, do not lose out on employment opportunities. 

In a letter to the president the lawmakers wrote, "We share the goal of increasing the efficiency of federal resources and delivering the best public services possible. However, experience from previous federal hiring freezes tells us that they are counter-productive, increase costs,  and only serve to further privatize government jobs. When Presidents Carter and Reagan pursued similar policies, it led to higher government costs and ineffective management as reported by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office." They also noted that the federal workforce has has been flat for decades, and as a percent of the overall workforce, federal employment has declined sharply since 1970 while providing more services and increasing productivity. 

The lawmakers highlighted the chaos and uncertainty that the freeze is causing in New Mexico as key services are being disrupted due to agencies' inability to fill essential positions and thousands of people who hoped to join the federal workforce are no longer able to apply for civilian jobs. Veterans transitioning to civil service make up a third of the federal workforce and would normally receive a hiring preference but cannot apply to these federal posititions while they are subject to the hiring freeze.

"In New Mexico, we are already hearing from constituents telling us how this order is having a detrimental effect on hiring for key positions, many of which are related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. A hiring freeze disrupts recruitment of highly-qualified STEM graduates from our universities, in turn jeopardizing our nation’s security and competitiveness. These positions include recruitment for educators on tribal lands, protection of our borders, monitoring the safety of our food supply, managing public lands and mineral leasing, and fulfilling our promise to our veterans," the lawmakers wrote.

According to the letter, 300 jobs are currently at risk in New Mexico, 125 of which are civilian positions that support the military, and at least 32 are jobs with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The lawmakers raised concerns about what these empty positions will mean for the future of the military bases in New Mexico and the services available to the state's veterans. 

"These lost jobs will impact federal employees not just in Washington but across all 50 states. The effect will especially be felt in New Mexico, where our three Air Force bases, major Department of Energy facilities, Army Missile Range, and federal land management agencies are significant contributors to their local economies and communities," the lawmakers said. "We find this policy to be ill-conceived and deserving of further consideration."

The full text of the letter is here and copied below.

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of New Mexicans, we write to express our deep concern about the damage a federal hiring freeze will have on essential services in our state. We urge you to evaluate the full consequences of your January 23, 2017, Memorandum Regarding the Hiring Freeze and make immediate changes to ensure fundamental government services are not negatively impacted.

We share the goal of increasing the efficiency of federal resources and delivering the best public services possible. However, experience from previous federal hiring freezes tells us that they are counter-productive, increase costs, and only serve to further privatize government jobs. When Presidents Carter and Reagan pursued similar policies, it led to higher government costs and ineffective management as reported by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office. Upon further reflection, you would find that the federal civilian workforce has been flat – around 2.6 million – for decades, at about the same number of employees in the 1970s. As a percent of the total workforce, federal employment has declined sharply from 4.0 percent in 1970 to 1.9 percent today, while at the same time providing many more services and increasing productivity for the taxpayers.

Despite the guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget on January 31, 2017, the memorandum is creating chaos and uncertainty over how and where exemptions will impact the thousands of people looking to serve as civilian employees. This disproportionally impacts our nation’s veterans as they transition to civil service. Nearly one in three federal employees is a veteran. Although their applications would otherwise receive a veterans’ preference, it counts for nothing if the positions are subject to a hiring freeze. Adequate flexibility and further clarification on the boundaries and limitations of the hiring freeze is necessary to ensure minimal disruption of federal services.  

In New Mexico, we are already hearing from constituents telling us how this order is having a detrimental effect on hiring for key positions, many of which are related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. A hiring freeze disrupts recruitment of highly-qualified STEM graduates from our universities, in turn jeopardizing our nation’s security and competitiveness. These positions include recruitment for educators on tribal lands, protection of our borders, monitoring the safety of our food supply, managing public lands and mineral leasing, and fulfilling our promise to our veterans.

Our military is weakened by uncertainty about the future of its civilian workforce. Thousands of civilians in New Mexico work in support of our military. The exemption to the federal hiring freeze only applies to uniformed military personnel, which ignores the thousands of civilians who work in support of our military. A federal hiring freeze puts at risk more than 300 jobs in New Mexico, including over 125 civilian positions in support of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, and at least 32 at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under the freeze, hiring managers at our military bases are no longer able to recruit and hire New Mexicans for potentially hundreds of important careers in research, development, testing, and evaluation of critical tools necessary for our national security.

Regardless of party, we all want to get America back to work, but as a direct consequence of this action, thousands of Americans are now uncertain about the future of their careers. These lost jobs will impact federal employees not just in Washington but across all 50 states. The effect will especially be felt in New Mexico, where our three Air Force bases, major Department of Energy facilities, Army Missile Range, and federal land management agencies are significant contributors to their local economies and communities. We find this policy to be ill-conceived and deserving of further consideration. We ask that you promptly reverse this policy. Should the hiring freeze stay in place, we urge you to take immediate action to ensure that essential government programs are able to operate without counterproductive obstruction that harm services for the American people.

Sincerely,