President Trump has signed three executive orders aimed at civil-service protections that federal employees have enjoyed for nearly a generation. Trump made a campaign promise to overhaul the federal bureaucracy of more than 2 million employees to remove “waste, fraud and abuse.” These executive orders are widely seen as an initial step in that direction.

The three executive orders the president signed make it easier to fire poor performers, direct agencies to negotiate tougher contracts with unions, and limit the amount of time employees can be paid for union work. The changes also change a long tradition of basing layoffs on seniority as agencies can now take performance into consideration, as well.

White House officials said the goal is to increase the efficiency of the federal workforce and make it more responsive to the public. Andrew Bremberg, the White House director of the Domestic Policy Council, said, “These executive orders make it easier for agencies to remove poor-performing employees and ensure that taxpayer dollars are more efficiently used.”

During his State of the Union address, the president called on Congress “to empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove those that undermine the public trust or fail the American people.” No such legislation has been passed by Congress.

The president signed the executive orders behind closed doors with little publicity. The details of the orders were released to reporters later in the afternoon. Some of those details immediately drew polarized reactions.

The orders now direct managers to move more aggressively to fire poor performers or employees involved in misconduct. Under the current rules, a last-chance grace period for improvement can last up to 120 days. The new orders reduce that time period to one month. Agencies are now also required to disclose details about an employee’s record to other federal offices considering hiring someone who has been fired or disciplined.

The orders also limit federal employees’ “official time,” their paid time to do union business. The new rule limit employees to spending no more than a quarter of their workday on these activities. Making the change is expected to save the government roughly $100 million a year, according to administration officials.