Trump’s potential purge of career employees casts pall across federal government

Federal career employees across the Trump administration are fearful of losing their job protections and potentially their jobs, as agencies begin to implement a recent executive order signed by President Donald Trump.

a house with trees in the dark: The White House on November 11, 2020 in Washington.

© Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
The White House on November 11, 2020 in Washington.

A majority of career staff will be redesignated into a new category that strips them of protections afforded to civil servants and makes them easier to be removed.


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The Office of Management and Budget inside the White House has been one of the most aggressive in making the change. An October executive order created a new classification for federal employees serving in “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions.” These employees typically do not change over during a presidential transition.

Experts say the reclassification could potentially leave tens of thousands of federal employees vulnerable to being fired without cause.

“This is an attempt to sabotage on their way out the door,” said Richard Loeb, senior policy counsel at the American Federation of Government Employees.

The Office of Personnel Management ultimately has final authority on which positions get changed, and late last month the acting director sent a memo instructing agencies how to implement the new classification system, known as Schedule F.

While the agencies have until January 19 to identify positions they believe should be reclassified, several agencies began compiling their lists immediately, including the Department of Energy, where managers received the attached memo, obtained by CNN, asking them to identify positions for possible transfer.

The OMB is also rushing ahead. According to a source with knowledge of internal conversations, the office sent in its reclassification list last week, submitting more than half its employees for potential transfer. This action and its timing were first reported by RealClearPolitics.

Dozens of career employees at OMB have expressed fear that their jobs will be in the hands of a President known for retaliation, according to a source familiar with these conversations. One former OMB employee said current workers have no hope that OMB Director Russ Vought might come to their rescue, describing the Trump loyalist as a “very strange and unqualified director.”

For years, Trump has vilified career officials as the “deep state” and sought to rid the federal government of people he views as insufficiently loyal. Trump installed his longtime aide John McEntee to take over the White House’s Presidential Personnel Office, as part of an effort to purge those he thought had wronged him in some way and replace them with die-hard supporters.

The office is in charge of vetting political appointees, and shortly after taking over McEntee created a new questionnaire for potential political appointees across the administration, asking, among other things, what part of Trump’s campaign message “most appealed” to them and why.

Critics warn the order allows Trump to fill the federal workforce with loyalists during the final weeks of his administration and that it risks reverting the country to a spoils system in a way not seen since the 1883

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2021 Federal 100 Nominations Open

FCW, published by 1105 Media, Inc., is pleased to announce that nominations are open for the 32nd annual Federal 100 Awards.

MCLEAN, VA, Nov. 02, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Federal 100 Awards are presented to individuals in the federal IT community who have gone above and beyond to make a real difference in the way technology was bought, managed and used. This group mostly features agency employees and select members of the federal contracting sector, but past winners have included academics, independent watchdogs and even a member of Congress or two.

Nominations for the 2021 Federal 100 Awards are now open.  To submit a nomination, please visit

“Each year’s group of nominees represents the power of the individual in the federal IT community,” FCW Editor-in-Chief Troy K. Schneider said.  “But it all starts with building the broadest and best possible pool of candidates. I’m so excited to see who rises to the top for our 32nd Federal 100.”

There are five points to remember when submitting a nomination:

  1. Anyone in the federal IT community is eligible: career civil servants, political appointees, contractors, academics, even members of Congress.

  2. The awards are for individual accomplishments in 2020.

  3. Winners go above and beyond, whatever their level or rank. A fancy job title is not required, and just doing one’s job well is not enough.

  4. Multiple nominations are encouraged.

  5. Impact matters. Tell us what a nominee did and what that work accomplished.

Winners will be announced in early February, profiled in the August issue of FCW Magazine and celebrated in person at the Federal 100 Awards Gala on August 27, 2021. Nomination deadline is December 31, 2020.

About FCW

FCW’s editorial mission is to provide federal technology executives with the information, insights, and strategies necessary to successfully navigate the complex world of federal business. By providing federal technology executives with the “who” and “what” they need to know to get things done, FCW delivers access to a powerful, hard-to-reach audience that controls the $112B technology purchasing in federal government.

CONTACT: Alene Metcalf 1105 Media Inc 703.876.5052 [email protected]

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Jewish students file federal complaint against University of Illinois over ‘anti-Semitic harassment’

Jewish students and their supporters announced Friday the filing of a federal complaint alleging an “unrelenting campaign of anti-Semitic harassment” at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The complaint submitted in March with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights accused the university of allowing a “hostile environment to proliferate on campus,” citing an increase in swastikas, vandalism of menorahs and mezuzahs, and window-smashing at the Jewish fraternity house.

The document, which urged OCR to open an investigation, also said Students for Justice in Palestine’s members and supporters have harassed Jewish and pro-Israel students by calling them ‘Nazi’ and ‘White supremacist,’ and “converted mandatory UIUC diversity training into anti-Israel indoctrination.”

“Being a Jew at UIUC comes with immense hate and hostility” said UIUC student Ian Katsnelson in a statement. “First, as a senator on student government I’ve experienced shocking examples of anti-Semitism firsthand. I’ve been called a genocide supporter, a White supremacist, and harassed; all for being publicly Jewish. And all of this in front of the administration — who did nothing.”

Robin Kaler, UIUC associate chancellor for public affairs, said that the university “will never tolerate bigotry, racism or hate, and we condemn acts and expressions of anti-Semitism,” and that officials sought to address the problem after the complaint was submitted earlier this year to an accrediting organization.

“We were asked this summer to respond to the complaint,” said Ms. Kaler in an email. “After receiving our response, that organization determined that the allegations raised in the complaint do not indicate substantive noncompliance with their requirements and that no further review would be conducted.”

At the same time, she said, “the university has been engaged in a long, meaningful and what we believed was a collaborative discussion about the concerns raised by the involved parties, so it is very disheartening that they chose to stop engaging with us.”

“We are disappointed with the approach this group has taken to move our conversation to the media, but we are absolutely committed to an inclusive university community where everyone feels welcome,” Ms. Kaler said.

The complaint, which accused the university of violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, was prepared by Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP with the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, with the involvement of the Jewish United Fund and Hillel International.

“Jewish students at UIUC have been targeted for years,” said Brandeis Center President Alyza D. Lewin. “We gave UIUC seven months since the complaint was filed to address the ongoing harassment. In the face of continuous stall tactics and almost no action from the university, we decided to publicize our efforts.”

In addition to incidents of vandalism and swastikas, the complaint listed a September 2019 university-sponsored diversity training session that included a presentation entitled, “Palestine & Great Return March: Palestinian Resistance to 70 Years of Israeli Terror.”

The chancellor later condemned the “anti-Semitic content,” but the student government passed a resolution sponsored by SJP defending the presentation at a

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Federal judge rules students have no constitutional right to civics education — but warns that ‘American democracy is in peril’

In an extraordinary decision that referenced President Trump’s tweets to postpone the November presidential elections, U.S. District Court Judge William Smith said the public school students who filed the lawsuit were not on a “wild-eyed effort to expand the reach of substantive due process.” Rather, he said, they were issuing “a cry for help from a generation of young people who are destined to inherit a country which we — the generation currently in charge — are not stewarding well.”

“What these young people seem to recognize is that American democracy is in peril,” he wrote (see opinion in full below). “Its survival, and their ability to reap the benefit of living in a country with robust freedoms and rights, a strong economy, and a moral center protected by the rule of law is something that citizens must cherish, protect, and constantly work for. We would do well to pay attention to their plea.”

The class-action lawsuit filed two years ago by 14 named students and their parents said that Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and state education and legislative leaders had failed to provide them with an “education that is adequate to prepare them to function productively as civic participants capable of voting, serving on a jury, understanding economic, social, and political systems sufficiently to make informed choices, and to participate effectively in civic activities.”

That failure, the lawsuit said, violated their constitutional rights under different parts of the Constitution that they said guaranteed them the right to an education that prepares them to be active citizens. The lawsuit said the defendants had “downgraded the teaching of social studies and civics, focusing in recent decades on basic reading and math instruction” and “neglected professional development of teachers in civics education.”

But Smith said in his ruling last week that in regard to the contention by students that their constitutional rights included a right to civics education, “The answer to that question is, regrettably, no.” He said, however, that the students “should be commended for bringing this case,” believed to be the first of its kind in a U.S. court.

“It highlights a deep flaw in our national education priorities and policies,” Smith wrote. “The court cannot provide the remedy plaintiffs seek, but in denying that relief, the court adds its voice to plaintiffs’ in calling attention to their plea. Hopefully, others who have the power to address this need will respond appropriately.”

Derek Black, a professor at the University of South Carolina’s School of Law and an expert on constitutional law and education law, criticized the ruling, saying: “State courts across the country routinely answer these types of questions. The notion that a federal court cannot act, when states have otherwise failed to do so, is inconsistent with the history of public education.”

There has long been concern about the lack of comprehensive civics education in America’s schools, especially during the past few decades when education reform policy was focused on raising standardized test scores in math and

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Trump issues order for some career federal employees to lose their civil service protections

“This is the most profound undermining of the civil service in our lifetimes,” American Federation of Government Employees President Everett Kelley said in a statement. “The president has doubled down on his effort to politicize and corrupt the professional service.

“This executive order strips due process rights and protections from perhaps hundreds of thousands of federal employees and will enable political appointees and other officials to hire and fire these workers at will,” he said.

Trump said his order will “give agencies greater ability and discretion to assess critical qualities in applicants to fill these positions, such as work ethic, judgment, and ability to meet the particular needs of the agency.”

Among career employees, the “excepted service” mainly applies to positions in which it is not practical to use competitive processes in hiring, such as administrative law judges and attorneys. Employees of some entire agencies, such as intelligence agencies, also are in the excepted service.

Agencies are not required to post excepted service vacancies on the central recruiting site—although some do—and need not use rating systems required when hiring for competitive service jobs. Also, there is no formal preference for veterans. Unless they are veterans, excepted service employees do not gain appeal rights until after two years of employment, rather than the standard one year.

The order tells agencies to conduct an initial review within three months, and a full review within seven months, of their positions “of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character not normally subject to change as a result of a Presidential transition.”

Agencies then are to ask the Office of Personnel Management to move those positions into a newly created category of the excepted service, although a list of “prohibited personnel practices” such as discrimination and nepotism would continue to apply to them.”

While not defining which occupations would be affected, such duties would include development or advocacy of policy; involvement with writing regulations and guidance; work in an agency component that primarily focuses on policy; supervision of attorneys; work in the agency’s executive secretariat; conducting negotiations with employee unions; or work that includes “substantial discretion to determine the manner in which the agency exercises functions committed to the agency by law.”

The order cites “the need to provide agency heads with additional flexibility to assess prospective appointees without the limitations imposed by competitive service selection procedures. Placing these positions in the excepted service will mitigate undue limitations on their selection.”

It also says that “Career employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy making, and policy-advocating positions wield significant influence over Government operations and effectiveness. Agencies need the flexibility to expeditiously remove poorly performing employees from these positions without facing extensive delays or litigation.”

The order follows the recent issuance of rules telling agencies to provide only the minimal accommodations required by law to assist underperforming employees before disciplining them and to make the maximum use of their discretion in choosing discipline either for poor performance or misconduct.

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Arne Duncan on how the federal government can help the US education system amid the pandemic

According to a new report, first-year college enrollment for this semester had fallen by 16%, and overall undergraduate enrollment dropped about 4%. Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined Yahoo Finance to discuss what can be done to help the state of higher education amid the pandemic. 

Duncan tells Yahoo Finance that he hopes that college enrollment reduction is just a “one-time hit” amid the pandemic. 

“Lots of young incoming freshmen are taking a gap year … so I don’t see that lasting. I hope that doesn’t last. What’s going to change in terms of higher ed, a couple of things. I think this is challenging for all of us, higher ed and K-12 as well,” Duncan said.

“What should stay online? What should stay virtual, what gets better delivered? Is it more effective, more efficient online versus in person? How do we continue, to reduce the cost of college? How do we make it more affordable for young people and families who are struggling before with the cost of college?,” he asked.

Students in a computer class. Students in front of computers in a computer class. Soft focus

Duncan tells Yahoo Finance that so many families are struggling financially as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and he believes that making education more affordable and accessible is the key to turning things around for millions of Americans.

“And so many families have taken a huge financial hit through the pandemic. How do we make things more affordable, more accessible for them? So in a really dark time, I think we’ll see more innovation. I think we’ll see more creativity in the long term that actually might be a good thing.”

One way the former education secretary believes that higher education can be more accessible to U.S. students is an implementation of the K-14 education model.

“We need to just change our model. We have a K-12 model that served us pretty well for the past 100 years, but that’s insufficient now. I think we need to move to a K-14 model starting earlier with our babies, and then a high school diploma is obviously critical, but it’s insufficient — some form of education beyond that. Four-year universities, two-year community colleges, trade, technical, vocational training, every high school graduate has to have a plan for furthering their education once they come out of here.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addresses a crowd of teachers and politicians in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes/File Photo

Despite the call for bold plans and actions, Duncan tells Yahoo Finance that he is not advocating for a federal takeover of public education in the U.S. but believes the federal government has a role to play when it comes to educating American children. 

“When you have a pandemic that affects us all, you need a national response to it. This pandemic doesn’t know red versus blue. It doesn’t know liberal versus conservative. When you have massive unmet need, that is

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