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Freezing at JBLM

Executive order ends in April

Some Child Development Center rooms have been closed as a result of non-appropriated fund vacancies. File photo

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A sense of uncertainty surrounds President Trump's recent federal hiring freeze.

On Monday, Jan. 23, the President issued a two-page executive order implementing a job freeze on all federal employment. It will last for 90 days and end in late April.

He said the directive is a stopgap measure to control the growth of government until his budget director presents a long-term plan to reduce the federal work force through attrition.

The freeze includes the 750,000 civilian employees who support the military. The only exceptions to this order apply to personnel in the military, national security and public safety.

"In carrying out this memorandum, I ask that you seek efficient use of existing personnel and funds to improve public services and the delivery of those services," wrote the President in the memorandum.

Closer to home, Joint Base Lewis-McChord is managing to meet the demands of the freeze well.

JBLM employs about 14,000 civilians with a base population of 105,000.  Approximately 120 open positions are affected by the freeze.  The majority of these fall under public works.

At the Madigan Army Medical Center, more than 3,400 of the hospital's employees are civilians.

The hospital currently has about 550 job openings.  Officials have been working hard over the past 18 months to fill positions that were lost or frozen during federal budget cuts implemented in 2013.  

"The hiring freeze situation is fluid," wrote JBLM spokesperson Joe Piek in an email last week.

The base is among the largest employer of federal civilian workers in the state, providing close to 14,000 civil service jobs.

One area of concern that becomes readily apparent is when the freeze affects a service characterized by a high turnover of personnel.  

JBLM's child care centers are an example of this economic dynamic.

"The Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DFMWR) has an annual turnover of non-appropriated fund (NAF) personnel, and therefore must consistently hire to maintain capability levels," explained Piek. "As a result of current NAF vacancies, coupled with the hiring freeze, we have closed some Child Development Center (CDC) rooms and placed some children on a waiting list."

In order to meet the vacancies, the Secretary of the Army has issued an exemption that allows for the hiring of qualified individuals.

Exemptions are highly sought after as bases like JBLM work to fill critical positions.

"Because of the hiring requirements and timelines, it may take several months to get back to pre-hiring freeze capability levels," said Piek.

This same type of scenario is applicable to areas like the Eagles Pride Golf Course and the commissaries.

"We're open for golfers," said a spokesperson at the golf course, "but we aren't hiring anyone, either."

This would include the new Brew Pub, which is closed until the freeze ends.

As to JBLM's exchanges, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) told its stores they could face cuts in the hours they are open.  AAFES has also submitted a request to the Pentagon for a hiring exemption.

Outside of the hiring challenges faced by DFMWR and AAFES, no services or operations at JBLM have been seriously affected by the hiring freeze.

JBLM and the Yakima Training Center can initiate recruit-fill actions if they have approval from the appropriate command level.

"Depending on how long the hiring freeze remains in place, coupled with normal personnel turnover at the base, the reduction of some services in the future is a possibility," continued Piek.

Credits: The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Military Times contributed to this article.

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