WASHINGTON — Nineteen House Republicans are calling on U.S. President Donald Trump to exempt the Defense Department's acquisitions personnel from the federal hiring freeze he ordered a week ago.
In a letter led by Missouri Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who chairs the Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, lawmakers asked Trump to "support the complete resourcing for DOD contracting offices."
"Their work directly impacts our military's ability to modernize its equipment and keep its technological edge against a broad range of threats," the letter reads.
While the letter applauds Trump's intention to shrink the federal government, it says the hiring freeze has hurt DoD and hindered acquisitions personnel contributing to the force restoration the military so desperately needs."
"Our military needs its acquisition personnel fully staffed and fulfilling their public service. Yet the military departments are now interpreting the Hiring Freeze memorandum to include these federal civilians essential to national security and military readiness," the letter reads.
On Wednesday, House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said there should be exceptions to the blanket freeze.
"There are some positions that are really important that should not be frozen, and have consequences for readiness and a variety of issues," Thornberry said. "I'm hopeful under the leeway that the department has that those critical positions … will not be frozen."
On Jan. 23, Trump ordered a freeze on the hiring of federal civilian employees to be applied across the board in the executive branch. It applies to "all executive departments and agencies regardless of the sources of their operational and programmatic funding, excepting military personnel."
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the move was a reaction to what the president sees as a frustration with the growth of federal bureaucracy.
Lawmakers have called on Trump in recent days to exclude one group of civilians or another.
The HASC's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith, last week blasted Trump for freezing the hiring of civilian workers at the US military depots and shipyards which ensure the readiness of the armed forces—days after he signed action on rebuilding the military—as a "bait-and-switch."
A coalition of Democratic lawmakers that included every Senate Democrat demanded in a separate letter that Trump exempt the Department of Veterans Affairs, saying it will significantly harm health care and benefits delivery for veterans.
The following lawmakers signed the latest letter: Reps. Vicky Hartzler, of Missouri; Rob Bishop, of Utah; Mike Turner, of Ohio; Rob Wittman, of Virginia; Joe Wilson, of South Carolina; Mo Brooks, of Alabama; Bradley Byrne, of Alabama; Walter Jones, of North Carolina; Steve Knight, of TK; Elise Stefanik, of California; Sam Graves, of Missouri; Mike Gallagher, of Wisconsin; Scott Taylor, of Virginia; Scott DesJarlais, of Tennessee; Neal Dunn, of Florida; Trent Franks, of Arizona; Ralph Abraham, of Louisiana; Paul Cook, of California; and Tom Cole, of Oklahoma.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.