Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

In October 2020, the Trump Administration issued an executive order that would have stripped protections from civil servants perceived as disloyal to the president and encouraged expressions of allegiance to the president when hiring. This effort is referred to as “Schedule F” because that was the name of the new employment category that the executive order created.  

The administration claimed the authority to create Schedule F based on statutory language that exempted certain positions “of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character” from employment protections. Previous administrations and Congress always understood the language to apply only to a smaller number of positions traditionally filled by political appointees. 

Because Trump did not remain in office, it is unknown how many federal employees his administration would have swept into Schedule F, or how many would have been fired and replaced. Experts have put the possible numbers in the tens or hundreds of thousands. The Trump official credited with the idea to create Schedule F estimated that it could apply to as many as 50,000 federal workers. Some Trump allies told Axios it would not be necessary to fire that many workers because firing fewer would produce the desired “behavior change.” 

Other comments and actions by former Trump officials led one professor who studies public administration to conclude that the 50,000 figure “is probably a floor rather than a ceiling.” 

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Ultimately, the executive order calling for a new Schedule F was not implemented; the Biden Administration rescinded it before it could go into effect. On April 4, 2024, the Biden administration finalized a rule that aims to clarify and strengthen existing protections for civil servants, and to slow any future effort to undermine those protections. 

Why is Schedule F being discussed?

Trump has announced his intention to reissue Schedule F “on day one” of his next administration. During his first term, government employees were frequent targets of public insults, threats, and retaliation. Echoing Trump, other elected officials have advocated “fir[ing] every single mid-level bureaucrat” and made campaign promises to begin “slitting [bureaucrats’] throats on day one.”   

Scholars at the American Enterprise Institute have stated, “[Trump] has made it clear in countless ways that, if he were to win the presidency again, he would expect total loyalty — from cabinet secretaries down to the most junior agency employees.” 

To assist him, the Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative policy organization, has organized a coalition of over 100 conservative organizations under the banner of “Project 2025,” an effort to prepare policy and personnel for “the next conservative president.” The organization’s policy agenda advocates for a revival of Schedule F as part of a larger crackdown on the civil service, and the architects of Project 2025 have plainly said that their aim is “to bend or break the bureaucracy to the presidential will.” 

Why isn’t Schedule F a positive reform?

There are legitimate concerns about the effectiveness, capacity, and accountability of civil service employees and many serious plans for reform. Those plans generally focus on how effectively the government serves the American people, including leadership and recruitment practices in the civil service, ethics, streamlining organizational charts, and encouraging innovation.  Schedule F advocacy differs by explicitly promoting personal loyalty to the president.

A recent article published in the journal Public Administration that reviewed 96 different studies on the relationship between meritocracy and government performance found that “Impartiality and professionalism are consistently related to positive performance outcomes, higher public trust and confidence, and lower levels of corruption” whereas “Politicization was negatively related to government performance, employee work attitudes (i.e., job satisfaction, organizational commitment), and impartial administration, and positively related to corruption.”

The review’s authors specifically related their findings to the proposed Schedule F: “The implications of the findings for Schedule F are unequivocal — converting career employees to Schedule F and removing their civil service protections is likely to degrade government performance.”

For more on the importance of the civil service and the consequences of politicizing it, see our civil service explainer here.

A core tenet of democracy is that the government should work on behalf of the public. It is in recognition of this principle that public officials are required to take an oath to uphold the Constitution — “a reminder,” in the words of Georgetown University public policy professor Donald Moynihan, “that their deepest loyalty is to something greater than whoever occupies the White House or Congress.”  

Schedule F is an effort to redirect regulatory, administrative, and investigatory functions of the government away from the public interest and toward the president’s interests. This makes it easier for an aspiring authoritarian American president to abuse his power to punish, intimidate, and silence opponents by making government aid, contracts, licenses, merger approvals, tax benefits, permits, civil penalties, relief aid, grants, and regulatory waivers contingent on showing personal fidelity.

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About the Authors

Alex Tausanovitch

Policy Advocate

Alex Tausanovitch does research, writing and advocacy focused on defending the rule of law and strengthening democratic institutions.

Michael Angeloni

Research Associate

Michael Angeloni is a Research Associate at Protect Democracy, where he supports the organization’s work to constrain executive overreach that undermines the rule of law.

Erica Newland


Erica Newland’s work focuses on presidential election reform, Department of Justice reform, and securing accountability for abuses of power.

William Ford

Policy Advocate

William Ford is a Policy Specialist at Protect Democracy, where he supports the organization’s work to strengthen legislative guardrails against abuses of executive power.

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