Several federal agencies are accelerating hiring in the final days of the Obama administration to ensure that as many new employees as possible are in place before President-elect Donald Trump imposes a promised hiring freeze.
Leaders at these agencies are filling open positions with transfers and outside hires, and making internal promotions before Trump takes office Jan. 20, according to internal documents and interviews.
The hiring could increase tensions between the Trump transition team and the Obama administration — a relationship that has grown worse in recent days due to disagreements over how the United States should handle its relationship with Israel and the issuance of new sanctions against Russia over its role in hacking incidents tied to the election.
Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, said in an interview late Friday that an agreement was struck in November that no new hires would be made after Dec. 1.
“After the election, the current administration notified us there would be a hiring freeze as of Dec. 1,” he said. “The understanding was that there would be a full accounting of anyone put on the payroll after then.”
Spicer declined to say whether he believes the administration has broken that agreement because the transition team has yet to be given any details about new hires and whether job offers had been extended after Dec 1.
Spicer said the offer to institute the freeze was made by Andrew Mayock, deputy director for management at the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Asked Friday evening about any agreement on halting hiring, the White House declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the OMB.
The internal pressure to hire is so intense in some corners of the government that at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is bringing on hundreds of employees, human-resources officials were ordered to cancel their year-end holiday vacations to process paperwork and make offers to new hires.
An internal agency update there, issued on Nov. 17, instructed officials that “all involved should be ready for an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to implement the ‘45-day Hiring Plan’ (Plan) to address a potential hiring freeze.”