Wright-Patterson hiring on hold after President Trump orders freeze

Executive order also prohibits hiring contractors to fill the positions.

A presidential executive order imposing a hiring freeze will put a hold on hiring new civilian workers for weeks at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the largest single-site employer in Ohio, officials say.

Wright-Patterson spokesman Daryl Mayer said Thursday the base has imposed a hiring freeze to comply with the directive.

The order President Donald J. Trump signed also prohibits hiring contractors “to circumvent” the memorandum, but gives some exemptions for national security or public safety issues. Military service members were exempted.

Dozens of congressional lawmakers have demanded Trump lift the freeze for veterans seeking jobs and on the Department of Veterans Administration.

The hiring freeze was to stay in place for 90 days while the Trump administration works on a plan to reduce the size of the federal workforce through attrition over the long term.

“The long term plans … have far reaching implications, but we do not know what they will be,” said Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs in Washington, D.C.

“President Trump has stated his intent to cut the federal workforce,” Gessel said. “What we do not know is how that will affect the civilian workforce. So the intent is not necessarily an across-the-board cut and certainly it is our hope for the preservation of national security that the cuts will not fall on the civilian defense workforce.”

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At least one labor union representing thousands of employees at Wright-Patterson opposes the freeze.

Troy Tingey, president of AFGE Council 214, said the stop in hiring will have a trickle down effect at bases throughout the country.

“(It) could have an impact on defense and readiness if we don’t have the people filling the positions and doing the work,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday from Hill Air Force Base in Utah. “If we’re not able to hire them, it’s a no-brainer.

“Workload needs to drive how much manpower (is needed) not some executive order,” he said.

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U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has urged Trump to lift the hiring freeze on the VA and veterans seeking federal employment.

In a letter with 54 other congressional lawmakers sent to Trump, they said they were “deeply troubled” the hiring freeze would disproportionately impact veterans. Former service members comprise nearly one-third of the federal workforce and often receive preference in filling federal jobs.

Brown’s office said the freeze would add to “chronic workforce shortages” at the VA, which has more than 45,000 vacancies.

The VA has said it will hire caregivers, but the agency cannot hire doctors and nurses without human resources staff or process claims backlogs without enough workers, Brown’s statement said. The senator is a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

A message was sent to the White House press office late Thursday afternoon requesting a response.

The impact of the federal hiring freeze at the Dayton VA Medical Center was not immediately clear Thursday.

A Dayton VA spokesman said the medical center was consulting with the VA Central Office and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget “to determine exactly where the line is drawn” that would exempt hiring public health employees.

“We expect that we will be able to continue to hire physicians, nurses, and other medical personnel as needed during the federal hiring freeze,” spokesman Ted Froats wrote in an email.

Froats added he expected “no significant impact” on veterans over the next three months. The Dayton VA workforce of about 2,000 employees provide health care at its main campus and four outpatient clinics to nearly 40,000 veterans a year.

Federal job seekers with an offer in hand before Jan. 22 may still be hired if they report to their new job by Feb. 22, according to an Office of Management and Budget memorandum. The OMB directive tells agency leaders if that start date is not met, they should review the position and determine if the offer should be revoked.

U.S. Office of Personnel Management figures show the Dayton region had a workforce of more than 16,000 federal civil service workers, of which more than 13,000 worked for the Air Force or Defense Department, according to 2013 figures. Wright-Patterson, among the largest bases in the Air Force workforce, has more than 27,000 military personnel and civilian and contractor employees.

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