The Trump administration will ask federal agencies Wednesday to make plans to implement major reductions next year, part of the administration's effort to streamline a bureaucracy that was a central target of the president's campaign.
Guidance expected from the Office of Management and Budget will require federal departments to identify areas where they can shrink the size of their workforce -- and grow it, in a smaller number of cases -- consistent with President Donald Trump's agenda.
White House officials on Wednesday offered no specifics for how many federal employees the administration believes it can do without. The point of the guidance, they said, is to seek input from the agencies and others that could be implemented in time for the fiscal year that begins in 2018.
Any significant reductions are likely to have an impact on the economy in Maryland, where more than 300,000 people -- roughly 10 percent of the state's workforce -- are employed by a civilian federal agency. Maryland is ranked third in the nation in per capita federal spending.
Asked specifically about the impact on Montgomery and Prince George's counties, home to the highest concentration of federal workers in the state, OMB director Mick Mulvaney said the administration would not be dissuaded by what he described as the concern of "special interest" groups.
"We didn't come up with this guidance with an eye towards taking care of any particular special interest group," Mulvaney said. "And to a certain extent, folks who live here and are worried about the value of their condominiums or their homes need to recognize that there are bigger issues at play. Fixing the government is more important than any particular sub group's interest."
He went on to say that the intention was not "to be heartless about those folks."
The guidance follows on an executive order Trump signed on March 13 that calls for a "comprehensive plan" to overhaul the federal government. Since then the administration proposed a budget that recommended heavy cuts to non-defense spending.
"Really, what you're talking about doing is restructuring Washington, D.C., and that is how you drain the swamp," Mulvaney said. "We think we can run the government more efficiently than the previous administration did, and we think we can run the government with fewer people than the previous administration did."
Significant cuts included in the president's proposed budget have met with bipartisan resistance on Capitol Hill -- including a roughly 30 percent reduction proposed for the State Department. While reductions at the scale are unlikely to advance, it is a good bet that the Republican-controlled Congress will make some effort to tighten spending at federal agencies.
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The first test of that effort will come later this month, when lawmakers must approve spending for the remainder of the fiscal year or shutdown the government. There is little appetite among Republicans for a shutdown, and so GOP leaders will likely have to seek support from some centrist Democrats.
J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, told members in a conference call on Tuesday that "layoffs are likely" if Trump's budget cuts are implemented. He said that employees "need to be worried," but encouraged them to step up their advocacy on Capitol Hill.
Maryland officials have estimated that the federal hiring freeze already in place will reduce the number of people in the state employed by the federal government by 4,653 positions next year. That will translate into a $25 million loss in state income tax revenue and a $7.2 million reduction in state sales taxes, according to the Board of Revenue Estimates.
"It must be noted that, as it currently appears, the hiring freeze is an incremental step in the president's broader plan for his administration of the federal government," the board wrote in early March. "As such, considerable uncertainly remains with regard to the long-term outlook for federal employment of Maryland residents."