The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2023

16 JULY-AUGUST 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL TALKING POINTS Threats to Federal Workers O n May 4, a group of 14 conservative lawmakers reintroduced legislation that would make the federal govern- ment an at-will employer, eviscerate Civil Service protections, and do away with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Representative Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) are the lead sponsors of the Public Service Reform Act, H.R. 3115. Under the proposed legislation, abolition of the MSPB means that most appeals would be sent directly to federal appellate courts. The act also creates a disincentive for federal workers to appeal their firings: A provision mandates that an employee’s retirement benefit annuity be automatically reduced by 25 percent if a court finds a complaint to be “frivolous” or “brought in bad faith.” Rep. Roy previously introduced this bill in July 2022, GovExec reported, but with Democrats in control of the House, it failed to move. Under the current divided Congress, its chance of passage remains low. But the number of initial co-sponsors has grown from five to 14. “It’s clear that the bureaucracy of the federal government is both a waste of tax- payer dollars and inefficient,” Sen. Scott said in a May 5 press release. In addition to the Public Service ReformAct, conservatives have also prepared a plan to revive Schedule F, a new employment category for federal employees that effectively strips them of Civil Service protections. Schedule F was mandated in an executive order (EO) signed by President Donald Trump in October 2020—and rescinded by President Joe Biden in early 2021. According to Axios, the EO would have reclassified about 50,000 employees in policymaking positions to make them at-will workers who could be fired with no recourse for appeals and replaced with partisan loyalists. Critics and career professionals fear that the resulting politicization and pendulum swings from one administra- tion to the next would threaten not only the continuity of service to taxpayers, but American democracy itself. Details of the plan are laid out in Project 2025, a presidential transition agenda devised by the Heritage Foun- dation think tank to serve as a turnkey government-in-waiting for the Republi- can presidential nominee. Project 2025, in turn, is based on a 900-page book, Mandate for Leadership: The Conserva- tive Promise . First published by the Heritage Foun- dation in 1981 for the incoming Ronald Reagan administration, Mandate for Leadership contains thousands of indi- vidual suggestions to move the federal government in a conservative direction. The ninth and most recent edition was released in April 2023. Sudan Evacuation T he U.S. concluded its evacuation of at least 1,300 Americans from Sudan on May 4—an effort that had been under- way since violence erupted on April 15 as rival military factions began fighting for control of the country. The evacuees, counting more than 2,000 in total, include U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, local staff at the U.S. embassy and their families, and Convoy of Embassy Staffers Attacked O n May 16, unknown assailants in southeast Nigeria opened fire on a convoy of U.S. embassy employees, killing two locally employed staff mem- bers and two local police officers, NPR reported. Two more police officers and a driver were kidnapped. In a statement on May 17, the State Department said that the two-vehicle convoy was carrying nine Nigerian nationals: five employees of the U.S. Mission to Nigeria and four members of the Nigeria Police Force. They were traveling in advance of a planned visit by U.S. Mission Nigeria personnel to a U.S.- funded flood response project in Anam- bra. No U.S. citizen was on the trip. “We condemn in the strongest terms this attack,” the statement read. “We will work closely with our Nigerian law enforcement colleagues in seeking to bring those responsible to justice. The United States has no greater priority than the safety and security of our personnel.” Authorities blamed the attack on an increasingly violent separatist group known as the Indigenous People of Biafra, which is leading a campaign for the region to break away from Nigeria to form an independent country. At a Senate Foreign Relations Com- mittee hearing on May 17, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) offered condolences “to the families and colleagues of the U.S. embassy local employees killed in Nige- ria yesterday. As career Foreign Service officers, you know that locally employed staff, foreign nationals, are essential to the success of our embassy and mis- sions abroad, and we all feel this loss. I want to thank them and the other foreign nationals who help support our embassy operations overseas.”