Trump signed an executive order, “Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Service,” in October 2020, which established a new employment category for federal employees. It received wide media coverage for a short period, then was largely forgotten in the mayhem and aftermath of Jan. 6 — and quickly was rescinded by President Biden.
Sources close to Trump say that if he were elected to a second term, he would immediately reimpose it.
Tens of thousands of civil servants who serve in roles deemed to have some influence over policy would be reassigned as “Schedule F” employees. Upon reassignment, they would lose their employment protections.
New presidents typically get to replace more than 4,000 so-called “political” appointees to oversee the running of their administrations. But below this rotating layer of political appointees sits a mass of government workers who enjoy strong employment protections — and typically continue their service from one administration to the next, regardless of the president’s party affiliation.
An initial estimate by the Trump official who came up with Schedule F found it could apply to as many as 50,000 federal workers — a fraction of a workforce of more than 2 million, but a segment with a profound role in shaping American life.
Trump, in theory, could fire tens of thousands of career government officials with no recourse for appeals. He could replace them with people he believes are more loyal to him and to his “America First” agenda.
Even if Trump did not deploy Schedule F to this extent, the very fact that such power exists could create a significant chilling effect on government employees.
It would effectively upend the modern civil service, triggering a shock wave across the bureaucracy. The next president might then move to gut those pro-Trump ranks — and face the question of whether to replace them with her or his own loyalists, or revert to a traditional bureaucracy.