A new report from the State Department's inspector general found that the Trump administration's hiring freeze caused real problems for the safety of Americans at home and abroad.
For nearly 18 months, the Trump administration imposed an agency-wide hiring freeze on the State Department. Now, a report from the department's inspector general shows that freeze had a profound effect on the functioning of the agency.
The inspector general's overall conclusion was that the freeze "was put in place generally, rather than with the goals of improving the operations of the agency in mind." In other words, the freeze was just designed to cut staff and had nothing to do with helping the agency.
The inspector general also said that the freeze policies "evolved continuously" over the 16 months of the freeze. There was no explanation as to the strategic goals of the freeze and no pattern or plan of staff reduction — just across-the-board cuts.
Worse, these were job cuts in critical parts of the agency. The inspector general concluded that staffing levels in jobs with "security, medical, and life safety responsibilities" declined nearly 8% over the life of the hiring freeze. Those jobs were important, according to the inspector general, "because they play a role in ensuring the protection of department employees."
The administration was willing to make State Department employees — who include thousands of foreign service workers — unsafe just to pursue an arbitrary diminishing of the agency. One foreign embassy said its residential security coordinator job remained vacant an entire year. A total of 95% of all bureaus and offices and 96% of all embassies and consulates said the freeze harmed their operations.
Other areas that were significantly affected: foreign affairs security training, overseas security operations, physical and residential security inspections of embassies, and security clearance management. Counterterrorism efforts in Africa and the Middle East were also hobbled by the coverage gaps that resulted from the freeze. It's clear that the freeze made Americans, both at home and abroad, demonstrably less safe.
The hiring freeze, which began under then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and continued under current agency head Mike Pompeo, largely ended about a year ago. However, as the Federal Times noted, once the freeze ended, "reduced staffing in the very offices that were supposed to hire personnel meant that the agency struggled to meet hiring goals for its civil service positions."
You read that right. The Trump administration cut so many people from the State Department that once they were ready to hire again, it was difficult to do so because they'd made such deep cuts.
This administration has outright admitted to breaking the law to get federal employees to quit their jobs. They've made no attempt to stop agencies hemorrhaging employees. They're out to destroy the administrative state, and they're succeeding.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.