Trump wants to bring back a corrupt system of political patronage. Congress and Joe Biden must undo this attack on the capability of our government.

Federal agencies across the government are quietly moving ahead with an 11th hour plan to fill vacant, nonpartisan career jobs with political appointees as well as fire and replace civil servants with individuals loyal to President Donald Trump. 

With only two months to go before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, agencies are rushing to implement an executive order that would undermine the merit-based, nonpartisan civil service system, eviscerate employee due process rights and replace professionals with partisans.

Although the Oct. 21 executive order has brought congressional scrutiny and legal challenges, and would most likely be rescinded by Biden, Trump administration appointees are hoping to place as many allies as possible into key government positions as they head for the exits.

Loyalty would replace competence

While the conversion of political appointees to career positions, often referred to as “burrowing,” has long been a concern during presidential transitions, such conversions have been rare and ordinarily undergo a rigorous review process. 

The Trump executive order sidesteps this process and has created a new job classification for “career employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy‑making and policy-advocating positions,” stripping these individuals of long-standing civil service protections and allowing politically appointed leaders to fire them at will. It is a stunning exercise of executive power and calls into question whether such a dramatic change is — or should be — permitted without a change a law.

There are literally tens, if not hundreds of thousands of positions in the career civil service that could be considered of a “policy-advocating” character. The American people depend on scientists, policy analysts, attorneys, managers, inspectors general and other nonpartisan career employees to evaluate current or proposed governmental policies and make relevant recommendations.

Under the executive order, career public servants who have raised alarms about major problems on the horizon, given honest but unwanted advice or proposed uncomfortable solutions could lose their jobs and be replaced by political appointees selected for their loyalty, not competence. All of this could be done out of public view, making the government less accountable and less effective.

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