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Mulvaney: Trump Will ‘Reward’ Good Federal Employees While Slashing Workforce

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney arrives on Capitol Hill on March 21, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said President Trump’s budget proposal is “consistent” with his campaign theme of “draining the swamp” because it seeks to “restructure” D.C. and “reduce” the size of government.

Mulvaney also predicted that the Trump administration would be able to run the federal government “more efficiently” than the Obama administration with a smaller federal workforce.

“Really, what you are talking about doing is restructuring Washington, D.C. – that is how you ‘drain the swamp,’ so the president uses different words. He doesn’t use the words ‘restructuring government, reorganizing government.’ He uses the words ‘drain the swamp’ – that’s what this is. This is a centerpiece of his campaign,” Mulvaney said Tuesday at the White House during a briefing about the administration’s “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce.”

Mulvaney declined to offer an estimate of the net amount of jobs the FY2018 budget would cut and total number it would add if it is passed and signed into law.

“We think we can run the government more efficiently than the previous administration can and we think we can run the government with fewer people than the previous administration,” he said.

Between June and September, the Trump administration will collect ideas from each federal agency on how it can roll back operations within the parameters of the budget blueprint as part of its “smart hiring plan.” According to Mulvaney, the guidance that OMB plans to release will encourage agencies to “look to the budget blueprint and fashion your hiring” in line with the president’s priorities.

“Right now, if you are at the Department of Energy, you haven’t been able to hire anybody because of the freeze we put in place on day one. As soon as the guidance goes out… what we expect the Department of Energy to do along with all the other agencies is look at that guide and say, ‘OK, here are the president’s priorities, it’s contained in the budget, it seems like the president wants us to beef up this particular operation at the Department of Energy, and reduce our emphasis on this particular department or organization within the Department of Energy,’” Mulvaney explained.

Under the smart hiring plan, he said some departments such as the Environmental Protection Agency might suggest that it should have fewer regional offices.

“Given the proposed reductions to the EPA in the budget, they would have to reduce the size of their workforce and it’s up to them to sort of come up with ideas on how to do that effectively with the president’s priorities,” he said.

“There are going to be some places where they have the ability to reduce size immediately and they may be called upon to do that in order to line up with the president’s priorities. There may be other places where they don’t have that ability and they’ll have to figure out a way over the course of time through ordinary attrition to get where they need to be. There may be places where it’s harder for them to ramp up.”

Assuming Congress will likely try to keep State Department funding despite deep cuts in Trump’s budget proposal, Mulvaney was asked if the administration would pursue the cuts administratively anyway.

“There are certain things Congress can actually make us do,” Mulvaney said. “To the extent where we have discretion under the law, that will be exercised in the method best possible to effectuate the president’s policies.”

Mulvaney relayed one of the main “frustrations” among federal employees that the administration has asked the agencies to examine.

“Here’s one of the things we found so far: one of the frustrations that government workers have is that we don’t reward those who do a really good job and we don’t punish those who do a lousy job,” he said. “How do you restructure your personnel policies in order to sort of point out people who are doing a great job while figuring out a way to get folks who are not delivering money for the taxpayer, get them on board with whatever policy you are trying to achieve? So that is a big part of what we are doing.”

Mulvaney said it is wrong to assume that the administration is only focusing on who is getting fired since it’s reducing the overall size of government with its budget proposal.

“That’s the wrong message to take from this. The right message is we are trying to figure out a way to make the government more responsive and more accountable, and that means taking care of the people who are doing a good job,” he said.

Mulvaney emphasized that Trump recommended a 1.9 percent increase in pay for federal employees.

“The president wants to reward good employees. He’s famous for doing that. Go down to the Trump hotel and ask people who used to work for him when he was in the private sector. He’s a great boss to work for,” he said.

Mulvaney was asked to address the rising concerns in D.C.’s surrounding counties over the spending reductions in the budget.

“To a certain extent, folks who live here and are worried about the value of their condominiums and their homes need to recognize there are bigger issues at play. Fixing the government is more important than any particular subgroup’s interest – that’s not to be heartless about those folks. These are people’s jobs and we get that,” he replied. “If you’re a really good federal worker, you should welcome this because now you finally get a chance to be rewarded for your contributions.”

Mulvaney advised the American public not to “discount the power of inertia.”

“What we’re battling against right now, which is the inertia of 240 years of the federal government weighing down on this ability to try and change government, starts to work to your advantage once you change it because then it becomes very hard to change again,” he said. “So even if there are things we can’t get done administratively, there are things we might be able to get done in an executive fashion.”

Mulvaney said the Trump administration would like to hear ideas from the “general public” to help run the government more efficiently.

“It’s not about big government, it’s not about small government, it’s about good government – that’s what the president talks about when he talks about draining the swamp,” he said.