EPA plans buyouts to reduce workforce under Trump

EPA plans buyouts to reduce workforce under Trump
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Top officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will maintain a freeze on external hiring and offer employees buyouts this year as part of a Trump administration workforce restructuring plan. 

In a memo sent to agency officials and regional administrators, EPA acting deputy administrator Michael Flynn said the agency will continue a hiring freeze put in place at the beginning of the Trump administration. 

The memo, provided to The Hill, said the EPA would also “begin the necessary steps to initiate an early out/buyout program” this year following a workforce restructuring directive from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) last week.

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The buyout program is due to be completed by the end of September, Flynn wrote. 

OMB last week lifted a government-wide hiring freeze that critics said was hurting federal operations. But it also ordered departments and agencies to write restructuring plans for their workforces. 

“What we’re doing ... is replacing the across-the-board hiring freeze that was put in place on day one and replacing it with a smarter plan, a more strategic plan, a more surgical plan,” OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said last week.

The directive instructed agencies to take “immediate actions” to reduce the size of workforces and develop plans to “maximize employee performance.”

In his memo, Flynn said the EPA would begin the workforce reduction effort and continue the hiring freeze Trump ordered in January. 

“While this memorandum ends the government-wide hiring freeze, each agency must determine based on its situation if a hiring freeze should continue,” Flynn wrote in his memo. 

“Given our resources situation, we will continue a freeze on external hiring.”

An EPA spokesperson said the “streamlining” proposal is “good government and important to maximizing taxpayer dollars." 

“This includes looking at developing opportunities for individuals to retire early,” spokeswoman Liz Bowman said in an email. 

“It’s a process that mirrors what the Obama administration EPA did about four years ago, to ensure that payroll expenses do not overtake funds used for vital programs to protect the environment.” 

Trump’s budget blueprint proposes a 31 percent reduction in the EPA’s funding, a plan that would also reduce the agency’s 15,000 jobs by 3,200. A regional labor union on Tuesday requested a meeting with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to discuss reports about closing an office in Chicago and reassigning its duties elsewhere.

—Timothy Cama contributed.