Will we be exempt from hiring freeze?

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Amid concerns about how President Trump’s hiring freeze would impact the Navy’s mission at China Lake, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy authored a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, urging him to use his authority to exempt civilian positions at science and technology reinvention laboratories and major range and test facility bases, “which are essential to advancing our national security.”

Although Trump’s memorandum excluded military personnel, the order did not define civilians as among those “who directly support the military and its critical mission,” states the letter. “However, the president did authorize the head of an executive agency or department to exempt any position deemed necessary to national security.

“We are concerned about the potential effects the hiring freeze could have on the warfighters — and ultimately our national security — if STRL and MRTFB civilians are not exempt from the hiring freeze.

“These facilities conduct mission-critical research, development, testing and evaluation and are a cornerstone of our national security efforts.”

While McCarthy and his eight other co-signers supported efforts to trim down excessive bureaucracy, “we do not believe in using your exemption authority to undermine the administration’s intentions.

“As you know all too well, the threats to our national security are ever evolving. Our warfighters must have the tools necessary to defeat current threats while maintaining a technological advantage that enables them to remain one step ahead of emerging targets.”

Mayor Peggy Breeden said she was pleased to see McCarthy going to bat for the local base.

“I’m so proud of what he’s doing, the alliances he is building and for his keeping us in the Indian Wells Valley informed.”

She added that the endorsements by other co-signers indicate that the contributions toward national defense at sites such as China Lake are important to more than just our own representative.

“The letter did a good job of explaining why we should be exempt, but the call to action should also be extraordinarily effective.”

Although discussions of another round of BRAC cropped up again as the freeze was authorized, Scott O’Neil, a former executive director of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division who is now the head of the China Lake Alliance, said that McCarthy’s office has not identified broad congressional interest in the measure.

He added that with the Navy being heavily impacted in past BRACs, it is likely to play only a minor role in subsequent rounds.

“This is a moving target right now. I tend to agree that a BRAC at this junction seems to be a long shot, but it still needs to be watched.”

Story First Published: 2017-02-17