49 officials from administrations of both parties signed an open letter this week against the implementation of the Schedule F executive order. Two of the signatories are Danny Werfel, Managing Director and Partner at Boston Consulting Group, and Allan Burman, President at Jefferson Solutions.
President Trump created Schedule F to make it easier to fire federal employees. However, many are concerned it would make political loyalty more important than job qualifications.
“I signed the letter because I thought it was a mistake. I thought it was misguided to go down this path for an institution like OMB that, over the years, has provided such great support to the White House and to any president,” said Burman, former Administrator of Federal Procurement Policy for George H.W. Bush. He said the executive order will turn OMB into a different kind of organization and lead to a loss of skillsets at the agency.
“My big concern with this executive order and classification is it would position OMB employees to be incentivized to follow politics rather than policy,” said Werfel, former Controller at OMB for Barack Obama. “It’s the wrong outcome for the organization and therefore the wrong outcome for the American people.”
Several members of Congress, including Republican James Comer of Kentucky, and experts from outside the government, including one from the Heritage Foundation, have come out in support of Schedule F. Rep. Comer said in October, “This executive order will strengthen accountability by requiring civil servants holding policy-making positions to be accountable to the president.”
Werfel said he disagrees with the notion that civil servants are policy-makers. “Administrations put in political officials who have the ultimate determination on the policies that will be advanced, and the role of the civil servant is to provide all the right analytics, evidence, institutional knowledge, to support those policy-makers,” he said.
Burman agreed, saying career civil servants provide advice and analysis to senior leadership on how best to carry out the mission. “You’re talking about skilled people who know their jobs,” he said.
Neither Burman nor Werfel see any potential upsides to the Schedule F executive order. “I think anybody who’s worked in the government for any length of time knows it’s a heck of a deal trying to hire people that you want and trying to get rid of people who are dead wood. And my view is, there is very little dead wood in an organization like OMB,” said Burman. “If you don’t love that life, you’re not going to be staying around.”