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 are 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.”
White House Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Shannon Buckingham said in an email early Saturday, “On Dec. 7, the administration imposed a moratorium on the hiring of senior executives within the civil service, known as the Senior Executive Service or SES.”
“This policy is consistent with previous transitions and is intended to ensure that incoming agency heads have the opportunity to make or approve executive hiring decisions that will impact the agency’s performance in the next administration,” she added.
According to an OMB official who asked for anonymity to discuss a private conversation, OMB senior adviser Andrew Mayock told Trump’s transition team executive director Rick Dearborn at a Nov. 21 meeting that the administration intended to halt any new SES hires as of Dec. 7. While Dearborn asked for a list of any new hires in that category after the election, and Mayock acknowledged that request, the official said, Mayock did not commit to providing such a list.