Workforce

Trump ally Gingrich pushes for federal 'You're fired!'

Newt Gingrich in 2014. (Photo credit: Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com)

Newt Gingrich wants presidential candidate Donald Trump to push for a civil service overhaul. (Photo credit: Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com)

Newt Gingrich, a senior adviser to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, wants it to be easier for Trump to utter his famous catchphrase "you're fired" to underperforming federal workers if he is elected.

In an Oct. 19 interview with the Washington Post, the former Republican Speaker of the House said he is urging Trump to make overhauling the civil service system a priority in his administration.

Gingrich told the Post that Trump is picking up on the issue of getting rid of underperforming federal employees who slow down government, turning it into a "quagmire" of ineffective, impotent agencies.

"He's talking about it a little bit," Gingrich said. "I think it's actually a very good place to draw a contrast with Hillary [Clinton]. I would not be at all surprised to see [Trump make] a speech on reforming the whole civil service system."

The Trump campaign has contemplated the idea before. According to a Reuters report in July, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was managing Trump's transition team at the time, mentioned in a speech to Republican donors that the campaign was drawing up a list of federal employees to fire if Trump defeats Democrat Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8.

At the time of the Reuters report, Trump's transition advisers were concerned that the Obama administration would convert appointees into civil servants who could "burrow" into agencies as a Republican administration took over. Civil servants can be harder to remove than political appointees.

In his remarks to the Washington Post, Gingrich said firing underperforming federal employees would improve the government's efficiency and effectiveness.

As an example, Gingrich said Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald "was a pretty good CEO" when he was at Procter and Gamble, but at the VA, he has had to accept situations he never would have in the private sector. Gingrich said McDonald wanted to bring in new leaders for 90 percent of the Department of Veterans Affairs' 140 underperforming medical centers but was able to bring in only eight new leaders from outside government.

"That's not quite 6 percent," Gingrich said. "The rest have just been moved around."

The federal workforce doesn't rate much of a mention in the Democratic platform. However, the Republican platform seeks to empower federal managers to "discipline and if necessary dismiss problem staff members" and restrict any union activity conducted by feds while on the job.

In a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in July, Clinton said she was outraged by the problems at the VA and would make reforming the agency a priority for her administration.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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