Fixing the Federal Hiring ProcessJohn Sanders
Two Republican senators are proposing new legislation to overhaul government employment, easing limitations on the onboarding process and erasing many of the roadblocks that agencies encounter when hiring new employees.
The Inspired to Service Hiring Improvements Act (S. 4027) would drastically increase the duration of temporary and term workers and make it easier for agencies to gain direct-hire power, based on recommendations from the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Despite several reform efforts, the government has battled for years to cut its time-to-hire, and politicians claim that agencies are missing out on excellent prospects.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, is the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Government Operations panel. “The best and the brightest typically cannot wait three months to hear back on a job,” he said. “I have not come across a single private company that tells a potential hire that they’ll get back to them in three months.” “With so many federal employees set to retire, we must guarantee that the federal workforce is equipped and ready to hire and train new employees in the coming years.”
Agency chiefs would be permitted to make one-year interim appointments that could be extended to three years under the plan. They could also appoint personnel for up to ten years on a term basis. If the post were intended to be filled for less than six years, the employee would only be able to stay for that amount of time.
Any agency with a “serious scarcity of highly qualified individuals” would be eligible for direct hire power, which would reduce the bar from the existing “severe shortage of candidates” criteria. It would give agencies access to the unique mechanism if they weren’t getting the candidates they wanted, as Congress did for the Veterans Affairs Department during the COVID-19 outbreak. Direct hiring enables agencies to skip several of the stages enshrined in civil service law that normally bog down the recruiting process.
Like many recent legislative efforts, the bill aims to strengthen the pipeline of government hiring among new graduates. Agencies would be permitted to make 25% of their hiring using expedited authority for persons who have just completed college or higher education, up from the 15% cap.
Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s Employment and Workforce Safety panel, said the bill will “help streamline and modernise [the] broken government employment process.”
In recent years, agencies have become more reliant on alternative employment methods. In 2018, authorities used direct hiring authority to hire nearly a quarter of all new employees through a competitive process, compared to just 5% ten years ago. In 2002, Congress created the mechanism which permits agencies that receive clearance from the Office of Personnel Management to avoid the traditionally needed formal application grading and use of veterans’ preferences. Hiring managers have praised direct hiring for allowing them to bypass typical hiring limits to hire better-qualified individuals rather than merely using their authority to recruit people more rapidly.
For thousands of posts projected to carry out the recent infrastructure law, the Biden administration recently granted agencies sweeping permission to forgo publicly posting vacancies and bypass other hurdles that often bog down federal recruiting.