WASHINGTON — As one of his first actions as president, Donald Trump issued an executive order that could impact hundreds of government employees across Northwest Florida.
“I hereby order a freeze on the hiring of federal civilian employees to be applied across the board in the executive branch,” Trump wrote in the order. “As part of this freeze, no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.”
On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose congressional district includes four major military installations, expressed concern about the unintended consequences of the order, which doesn’t apply to military personnel.
“I support the president’s intention to reduce the size of the federal government, however, there have been substantial negative effects and misinterpretations,” Gaetz wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Gaetz said he is particularly concerned about employees whose jobs are on an annual contract, such as base childcare center workers.
“Usually those contracts are renewed on a pro forma (as a matter of form) basis,” Gaetz said by telephone from his office in Washington. “I’m asking the secretary of defense to create exemptions for employees whose lives could be disrupted if this order is not clarified.”
Gaetz said he finds it “equally troubling” that some government departments are interpreting the order to include civilian employees who are in the middle of transferring to new positions within the government.
“It is my grave concern that these interpretations could negatively impact the military missions conducted at NAS Pensacola, NAS Whiting Field, Hurlburt Field, and Eglin Air Force Base,” Gaetz wrote in the letter.
Gaetz also urged Mattis to allow Department of Defense offices to fill open positions if needed to carry out their missions.
Although he said he already has heard from a “handful” of constituents regarding the possible implications of the order, Gaetz said more calls could be coming.
“In the coming days, I expect more constituents will contact me as they begin to receive notifications about their employment status,” he said. “I don’t believe it was President Trump’s intention for the order to have these effects.”