State Department Rejoins Presidential Management Fellows Program

With the application deadline for the 2018 Presidential Management Fellows program fast approaching, the State Department said it will open its doors to the upcoming batch of fellows.

The agency confirmed to Government Executive that it will rejoin after unexpectedly pulling out from the program in July citing redesign efforts under the Trump administration. State’s withdrawal from the 2017 PMF program left a handful of diplomacy-minded finalists high and dry, even after some had already received job offers at the agency.

The Presidential Management Fellows program is a prestigious, highly competitive recruitment program aimed at bringing top college graduates into the federal government. Candidates don’t apply to any specific agencies but rather the program as a whole. After becoming finalists, they have one year to work with agencies and get hired on as a fellow. Not all finalists are guaranteed positions.

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All Cabinet-level agencies as well as a number of smaller departments are expected to participate in next year’s program, according to an Office of Personnel Management spokesperson. The application for 2018 candidates is due Nov. 1.

Even as State rejoins the program this year, the number of posts available for finalists in the already highly competitive process may be limited as the department downsizes its workforce and faces heavy budget cuts in the upcoming year.

“We are pleased that [Secretary Rex Tillerson] recently approved limited PMF hiring,” a State Department official told Government Executive. “However, future PMF hiring decisions will be considered as part of the department’s overall strategically managed hiring plan, in line with the department’s redesign efforts.”

Though details of the redesign largely remain to be seen, it seems unlikely to include any major efforts to expand America’s diplomatic corps. A wave of resignations and layoffs have already purged the agency of many of its most experienced diplomats, and the administration has taken its time in filling many of State’s top leadership positions. Tillerson has also backed a budget proposal that would cut his agency’s funding by 32 percent in fiscal 2018, though Congress is likely to support less drastic reductions.

OPM declined to comment on whether State’s decision to withdraw from the PMF program in 2017 would have any effect on enrollment numbers in the upcoming cycle.

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