Lawmakers Task Trump Administration With Overhauling Federal Hiring

Lawmakers want to hear the Trump administration’s ideas for overhauling the federal hiring process, and are allowing just more than a year to come up with a plan.

House appropriators in their report on the fiscal 2018 financial services and general government spending bill tasked the Office of Personnel Management with developing a plan to “reduce barriers to federal employment, [and] reduce delays in the hiring process." Lawmakers also would like OPM to specify how it intends to "improve the overall federal recruitment and hiring process." If the language remains in the report on the final bill, OPM would be required to submit its plan to Congress by Sept. 30, 2018.

An OPM spokesperson said the agency has already provided significant input on the subject to Congress, but would be happy to complete the committee’s request.

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“OPM has testified at multiple hearings, conducted briefings, and done outreach to congressional Hill staff on the topic of the federal hiring process,” the spokesperson said. “Should Congress enact the requirement outlined in the report, we look forward to working with Congress to satisfy their request.”

OPM has for decades struggled to streamline the often cumbersome federal hiring process. The Obama administration launched two separate initiatives focused on reforming the way agencies onboard new employees, most recently through former Director Beth Cobert’s Hiring Excellence campaign. Under the program, OPM staff around the country trained managers and human resources personnel throughout government on better recruiting, onboarding and retention strategies. OPM has also for the last two years rolled out changes to the federal government’s job posting website, USAJOBS, every six-to-eight weeks.

President Trump in May nominated George Nesterczuk to lead OPM, but he has yet to receive a hearing or vote in Congress. During his time as senior adviser to the OPM director for the Defense Department from 2004-2006, Nesterczuk was seen as a champion of expanding hiring flexibilities.

Congress has in recent years largely tackled federal hiring reform with a piecemeal approach, adding flexibilities on an agency-by-agency basis. Trump instituted a hiring freeze almost immediately upon entering office, lifting it only with the condition that agencies would not resume onboarding employees “willy-nilly.” Agencies across government submitted to the Office of Management and Budget on June 30 plans maximize employee performance, which included proposals to reform hiring and retention. The plans also included suggestions for cutting the federal workforce.

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