Trump Nominees Can Serve in SES Roles at Agencies as They Await Confirmation

President-elect Donald Trump listens to a reporter's question in New York on Monday. President-elect Donald Trump listens to a reporter's question in New York on Monday. Evan Vucci/AP

The Obama administration has taken some heat from Republicans for implementing last-minute rules and regulations that could hamper President-elect Trump from implementing his agenda, but Obama is giving his successor at least one parting gift: the ability to place nominees into agency positions while they await confirmation.

The Office of Personnel Management announced the authority on Monday, which will enable Trump appointees to serve in temporary Senior Executive Service positions before the Senate votes on their nominations. The appointees would serve in “advisory or consultative capacity.” Beth Cobert, OPM’s acting director, said in a memorandum to all federal agencies that the authority would “support agencies’ transition needs.”

As an example, OPM said a Trump nominee could serve as a “senior adviser to the secretary” who could weigh in on matters “pertaining to policies, priorities and program direction of the department and to its structure, organization and operation.” The adviser could work on special assignments, the impact of proposed policies and coordinate with department officials and other stakeholders.

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The Trump administration must make the SES appointments during a 10-day window beginning on Inauguration Day. Cabinet-level agencies will be able to place five Trump nominees into temporary SES positions, while non-Cabinet level agencies will be able to do so with just three. Agencies will be able to retain the nominees for 21 days, and then must ask OPM for additional time if necessary. 

The nominees are not subject to competitive hiring requirements, but the agency must sign off on the individual as qualified for the position.

OPM also granted agencies with “Temporary Transition Schedule C Authority,” which will enable them to non-competitively appoint employees to short-term positions after a new secretary takes office. The non-career employees can serve up to 240 days without OPM approval. Each agency in the Trump administration will retain the authority from when the president-elect is sworn in until one year from the time the new agency heads begin their tenures.

Agencies can use the authority to put in place three to 80 temporary workers without any review, OPM said, depending on the number of Schedule C workers they currently employ. 

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