BREMERTON, Wash. — President Trump's federal hiring freeze has not burdened the Kitsap Navy. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, after a pause, went right back to hiring, and hasn't caught up to other programs.
The freeze was imposed on Jan. 23 for roughly 90 days for the Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel Management to develop a long-term plan to reduce the federal workforce through attrition. On Feb. 2, the Department of Defense exempted shipyard jobs and 15 other functions as necessary for national security and public safety. After another week to figure out the process, the shipyard resumed hiring by requesting job waivers from the Secretary of the Navy.
As of March 3, it requested 2,478 waivers. Of those, 1,980 were approved and 498 are being processed. None were denied, according to shipyard commander Capt. Howard Markle. Among the approvals were a recruitment of 900 trainees and 414 workers who had been offered jobs but not a report date before the freeze kicked in. The shipyard has applied for a waiver to hire 272 people for the 2017 apprenticeship class.
The Navy's Office of Civilian Human Resources streamlined the waiver process.
"Because of that, we've been able make exemptions on a weekly basis as the waivers are being submitted," said Lt. Marycate Walsh of the Navy Information Office. "We've really been lucky in that our team has worked so hard to put a policy in place that has really limited and mitigated the effects on the fleet."
A few stories have appeared nationally about reduced hours at military childcare centers and long lines at commissaries. Problems don't appear to be widespread or occurring at Kitsap bases. Naval Base Kitsap has hired first responders, said spokeswoman Silvia Klatman. Applications have been or are being accepted for positions providing critical support services for military personnel such as child care, which is also exempted by DOD, and fitness facilities. They're expected to be filled soon.
"In the short term, NBK has been able to adjust duties and resources to minimize impact on services," Klatman said. "As a result, operating hours at child development centers, fitness facilities and other support areas have not been changed."
Naval Hospital Bremerton has not had to curtail services or defer them elsewhere, said spokesman Doug Stutz.
Commissaries could see longer lines and shorter hours if the freeze drags on. The Defense Commissary Agency has asked for an exemption from the hiring freeze but hasn't received a response, said spokesman Kevin Robinson. Stores worldwide have more than 1,650 job vacancies. So far, services have not been curtailed at any store, as part-time employees are working extra hours. Longer lines are being seen at the cash register in a few stores, he said.
"For the short term we expect to increase the hours of part-time employees in the United States, Robinson said. "However, with an over 20 percent average turnover rate, if the hiring freeze continues for an extended duration we may eventually be forced to temporarily cut services or reduce days/hours if staffing problems occur. Cutting service or curtailing days/hours of operation will be our last course of action if staffing levels make those options necessary."
Military exchanges; morale, welfare and recreation programs; and family readiness programs are now exempt from the freeze, according to a March 7 memorandum from the Deaprtment of Defense.