Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is a co-sponsor of the bill. Susan Walsh/AP

Measure to Streamline Federal Hiring Heads to Obama’s Desk

Budget office warns the well-intentioned bill will be little used.

The House on Monday sent President Obama a bill to make it easier for federal agencies to share information about job candidates, which proponents say will cut the red tape involved in assessing applicants. 

Currently, agencies with similar hiring needs cannot share assessments of applicants with each other. Pending Obama’s signature, the 2015 Competitive Service Act will 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 measure has already cleared the Senate, where Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio introduced it.

A Senate report on the legislation found the current process leads to “duplicative work,” as agencies looking to hire an individual another agency has already assessed must “start from scratch.” The bill would essentially create a list of pre-approved candidates for similar groupings of job openings. The Office of Personnel Management has endorsed the reform, according to the report.

The Congressional Budget Office, however, has said the measure would have little real impact on federal hiring. 

“Based on information from the Office of Personnel Management,” the cost analysts wrote, “CBO expects that without a formal and structured human resources process to share assessments between agencies few managers would use this authority.” CBO added the bill does not establish such a mechanism and because it would be rarely used, it would not have a significant impact on the budget.

Tester has said the bill was a “common-sense solution,” while taking issue with CBO’s assessment.

“The Competitive Service Act strengthens the federal workforce while saving taxpayers money,” he said when the bill unanimously passed the Senate last year.

Marnee Banks, a Tester spokeswoman, said CBO’s criticism stemmed from OPM, adding the senator will hold the human resources agency’s feet to the fire to enforce the bill.

“Once this legislation passes, Sen. Tester intends to hold OPM accountable for helping agencies streamline their hiring practices,” Banks said.

Lawmakers have called the reform 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 one vacancy, another agency could leverage that evaluation to fill its own spot.

Patricia Niehaus, president of the Federal Managers Association, has said the measure would improve federal recruiting efforts.

“One of the main deterrents into a federal career is the cumbersome hiring process,” Niehaus said. “By providing agencies with access to highly qualified candidates who already went through a rigorous assessment, the Competitive Service Act allows for greater efficiency in the hiring process.”