Panel approves hiring reform, expands whistleblower protections

A Senate panel on Wednesday approved by voice vote legislation to overhaul federal hiring procedures and extend whistleblower protection to intelligence community employees.

The 2009 Federal Hiring Process Improvement Act, sponsored by Sens. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee without debate. The legislation eliminates from the job application process essay requirements designed to demonstrate federal knowledge, skills and abilities in favor of resumes and cover letters. It also calls for agencies to eliminate jargon from job postings, develop workforce plans and measure the success of hiring reform.

Legislators have expressed frustration that the current hiring system is inefficient, burdensome and alienates potential candidates. In response, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter R. Orszag and Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry have begun developing guidelines to help agencies streamline the hiring processes.

Lawmakers also approved the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which extends protection to intelligence community employees and allows whistleblowers to bring major claims to jury trials. These provisions have been sticking points in the past, but many committee members praised the measures, including Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who called the bill "good government legislation."

The National Treasury Employees Union joined the Make It Safe Coalition, an alliance of whistleblowers and groups that support them, in a statement supporting the Senate's action. However, the group pledged to seek broader protections from House lawmakers when they consider the legislation. "The Coalition is seeking a final bill that includes permanent access to jury trials for all whistleblowers, truly independent and functional due process for employees of the FBI and other intelligence agencies, and coverage for all federal contractors," the coalition said in a statement.

Stephen M. Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center, expressed disappointment over the bill: "The Senate did the right thing in putting forward a provision, which permits federal employees to remove their cases to federal court. However, we hope the procedural and substantive limitations on these fundamental due process rights will be removed as the bill proceeds."

Besides giving a green light to hiring reforms and expanded whistleblower protection, the committee easily approved Christine Griffin's nomination to the OPM deputy director position.

Lawmakers also discussed the 2009 Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Funding Reform Act, which would make changes to the service's retiree benefits plan and borrowing privileges. Their concerns centered around projected financial losses at the U.S. Postal Service and its reinstatement to the Government Accountability Office's high-risk list. "Doing nothing is not an option," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the committee's ranking member. "This is indeed a crisis."

Several amendments to the bill passed by voice vote. These would allow the Postal Service to continue borrowing money but keep the $15 billion debt limit, move the GAO fiscal stability reporting deadline forward, allow union arbitrators to consider Postal Service fiscal health in negotiations, and prohibit bonuses for senior executives. The committee was unable to reach agreement on moving the legislation forward, however, and will reconsider and vote on it at a later date.

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
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.