Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy on Wednesday laid out his ideas to shut down the FBI and fire more than 1 million federal workers, lining up with increasingly sweeping conservative proposals targeting the federal government and particularly law enforcement.
Candidates trying to beat former President Donald Trump have responded to growing anger among GOP primary voters about the indictments against Trump as well as federal investigations and policies seen as unfairly targeting conservatives.
Ramaswamy's proposals are among the broadest in the field. Speaking at the America First Policy Institute in Washington, he said he would try to reduce the federal employee headcount by half in his first year in office and by 75% during his first term if he makes it to the White House.
He wants to shut down five federal agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Education. He said he would also eliminate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Food and Nutrition Service.
“The people who we elect to run the government ought to be the ones who actually run the government,” Ramaswamy said.
Attempting a purge of that size would immediately lead to huge pushback from federal employees who have civil service protections, interest groups, and lawmakers of both parties who support the work of some or all of those agencies. While in office, Trump often railed against what he saw as a “deep state” of bureaucrats working against his administration's priorities, but he did not carry out firings of rank-and-file employees.
Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old businessman, has drawn the attention and curiosity of primary voters, especially after his performance at the first Republican presidential debate. Even as he runs against Trump, Ramaswamy has repeatedly praised him as the most effective president this century. In the audience Wednesday was U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida congressman who is one of Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress.
Ramaswamy is not the only Republican candidate to suggest slashing the federal workforce. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he would eliminate the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Education.
And there's a larger effort to dismantle the federal government that is being fueled by conservative organizations along with former Trump administration officials. They have been working on drafting a plan for when Trump returns to the White House to oust federal employees and replace them with like-minded officials.
Ramaswamy said, currently, presidents act like “puppets” who can't implement policies. He said he would rescind federal regulations that he considers unconstitutional.
Regarding the plan for the FBI, Ramaswamy said he would fire 20,000 employees deemed to be in non-essential roles and send 15,000 to the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
“Part of the problem when you have a bureaucracy that runs the state is that they find things to do that they shouldn't have been doing in the first place,” he said, claiming that the workers had no specialization in the areas.