It has been over nine months since President Donald Trump left office, but on climate policy the federal government continues to show the scars from his disastrous presidency. At a moment when we do not have even a second to waste to avoid catastrophic climate change, agencies are struggling to build back better after attacks on scientific integrity and agency budgets left them without sufficient staff capacity and expertise. While the Biden administration has consistently affirmed its support for the federal workforce through rhetoric and action, New York Times reporting from this summer makes clear that the rebuilding is still not happening fast enough.
In this report, we take a closer look at many of the agencies identified in the New York Times report. For each, we chart the staffing losses that occurred under Trump and in the years prior, with particular attention to STEM employees. We consider what these capacity shortfalls mean for agencies’ ability to administer existing programs in the context of growing demands, whether simply from a growing population or new initiatives that the Biden administration has proposed. Together, these agency-level snapshots underscore the need for swift action.
While fully rebuilding will depend on robust appropriations from Congress, the Biden administration can make meaningful strides now by giving attention to the federal hiring process. Beyond getting new talent on board quickly in the immediate term, improvements to federal hiring will be essential to ensuring that new appropriations can be quickly translated into staffing capacity. In the final section of this report, we offer suggestions for specific actions the Office of Personnel Management, in cooperation with individual agencies, can take to accelerate hiring right away.
Photo: “Climate Emergency – PeoplesClimate-Melb-IMG_8280” by John Englart (Takver) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0