Washington, D.C. – On January 23, 2017, the same week that he signed a symbolic “presidential action on rebuilding the U.S. armed forces,” President Trump imposed a hiring freeze on civilian workers at the U.S. military depots and shipyards which ensure the readiness of the armed forces. These maintainers are the key personnel who keep our aircraft flying, our ships sailing, and our ground equipment moving and ensure that the equipment and weapons systems that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines rely on is safe and ready for use. Yet because of Trump’s order, hundreds of maintainers across the country who are employed for renewable terms are at risk of being laid off, and thousands of these maintainers are now unable to be hired, promoted, transferred, recruited, and in many cases simply do their work.
The work that these maintainers do lies at the heart of the military readiness problems that Congress has been attempting to fix. But in the coming days, the impacts of the freeze will compound as layoffs of these depot workers begin nationwide, at precisely the time when it is crucial that we reverse the military readiness impacts caused by sequestration. In addition, this freeze is having widespread impacts on all aspects of the U.S. military, including our ability to hire top cyber talent across the Department of Defense and other individuals that play critical roles in the intelligence community necessary to prosecute our war against terrorist organizations such as ISIS.
House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following statement regarding this order degrading U.S. military readiness:
“This is government by bait-and-switch for the U.S. military. In the same week that President Trump says he is rebuilding the military, he signs an order striking at the heart of U.S. military readiness. That is unconscionable and it directly affects the support we provide to U.S. service members in the field, not to mention the national security of the United States. This boneheaded, ideological attack on the functioning of our government is having real consequences. Sooner or later, the American people are going to catch on.”
The effects of this order will be widespread, for example, at Red River Army Depot in Texas, 678 direct labor and 55 indirect labor term and temporary workers are about to be laid off. Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex in Georgia is short 343 aircraft maintainers and cannot hire any more. At Anniston Army Depot in Alabama, 248 term and temporary workers need to be hired and 40 are about to be laid off.
In the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, at DOD’s request, Congress provided direct hiring authority to move term and temporary employees into permanent positions, as a means to solve the maintenance backlog. It also provided authority so that DOD could quickly hire desperately needed cyber professionals. Now, under President Trump’s readiness-killing hiring freeze, these authorities cannot be used.