OPM issues special hiring authority to fill emergency personnel needs

On Friday, the Office of Personnel Management granted special hiring authority to federal agencies in immediate need of additional or special staff in the aftermath of Tuesday's terrorist attacks. Under the emergency hiring authority, federal managers can fill positions affected by the Sept. 11 catastrophe using excepted appointments, which are excluded from competitive civil service procedures. Ellen Tunstall, assistant director for employment policy at OPM, said the special authority is for "guards or protective service people. The National Security Agency might require investigators of some sort, Justice might have needs for marshals. It can run the gamut for any agency that is either responding to this or is understaffed because they lost employees in the attack." In a memo issued to agency heads, OPM Director Kay Coles James also reminded agencies that they can bring back retired federal employees and former feds that left the government under buyout programs to deal with emergency personnel needs. Under normal circumstances, re-employed federal retirees are required by law to take a reduction in pay or benefits if they want to return to government, but managers can request that this reduction in pay be waived. Tunstall said OPM is prepared to give agency heads the authority to grant waivers, and will respond to such requests immediately. In addition, certain statutes governing buyouts state that if employees who accept buyouts return to the government within five years, they must repay the entire amount of the buyout. Agency heads can request that these repayments be waived for personnel who are the "only qualified applicants available for the positions and possess expertise and special qualifications to replace persons lost in the tragedies or to provide direct support in the rescue, recovery, investigatory and other phases related to the tragedies," the memo stated. Federal managers have the following options for filling urgent needs with excepted service appointments. These options are explained in Title 5, Chapter 1, Part 213 of the Code of Federal Regulations:
  • Temporary emergency need: Individuals may be appointed for up to one year.
  • 30-day critical need: Individuals may be appointed for 30 days and the appointment can be extended for an additional 30 days. Under the law, an agency may not employ the same individual under this authority for more than 60 days in any 12-month period.

OPM also granted managers special authority to hire personnel in senior-level positions. Usually OPM must individually approve appointments for personnel with special, senior-level expertise. But under authority granted Friday, "they don't have to come to OPM and ask for it. If the Defense Department wants to bring on a counterterrorist expert, they don't have to ask, they can just do it and tell us after the fact. Normally we would have to review it," explained Joyce Edwards, director of OPM's Office of Executive Resources Management. OPM has also pledged to immediately process requests for Senior Executive Service emergency appointments, which are explained in Title 5, Chapter 1, Part 317 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

OPM also suggested that federal managers contract with private sector temporary firms to meet emergency needs and reminded agencies of their authority to make appointments of 120 days or less without clearing their career transition assistance program or interagency career transition plan. Those programs give special selection status to employees displaced by government downsizing. Another immediate source of personnel are employees on re-employment priority lists, OPM said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.