Hiring Reform Bill Gains Momentum on Capitol Hill

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. Flickr user Cliff

A bipartisan pair of House members has introduced a bill to improve federal hiring by allowing agencies to share information on job applicants, joining several senators pushing the same reforms.

Currently, agencies with similar hiring needs cannot share assessments of applicants with each other.  The 2014 Competitive Service Act, introduced by Virginia Reps. Gerry Connolly, D, and Rob Wittman, R, would allow agencies to collaborate on competitive service certificates when looking to fill a position in the same occupational series and within a similar grade level.

The lawmakers called their proposal a win-win, as applicants are more likely to get hired and agencies can choose from already vetted individuals. If an applicant, for example, was deemed qualified by one agency but was not hired because the open position only had a single vacancy, another agency could leverage that evaluation to fill its own vacancy.

“The federal hiring process is an antiquated and cumbersome system that hinders our nation’s ability to efficiently hire the most qualified candidates into federal service,” Connolly said. “Our bipartisan legislation will enhance federal hiring authorities to improve the quality of the candidate pools available to agencies and the speed at which they can hire these top candidates.”

The bill mirrors legislation in the Senate, originally sponsored by Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska. That measure recently also received bipartisan backing, with Republican Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio, signing on as a sponsor.

Connolly noted that former Office of Management and Budget official Shelley Metzenbaum testified to Congress in March that cross-agency hiring authority “undoubtedly makes more sense than expecting every agency to build strong recruitment capacity in all the skill areas it needs.” Metzenbaum said the policy would boost “recruitment specialization” at agencies.

President Obama has also spoken of the “complexity and inefficiency of today’s federal hiring process.” The Partnership for Public Service, a good government advocacy group, has endorsed the measure and urged Congress to pass it. 

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