Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert issued the memorandum.

Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert issued the memorandum. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

OPM Tries to Kickstart National Security Job Rotation Program For Feds

Participants would receive ‘strong preference’ when applying to senior executive positions in national security.

National security personnel who have completed an interagency rotation program in their field would receive preference over other candidates when applying for top-level national security jobs, according to new guidance from the Office of Personnel Management.

OPM is directing federal agencies to create a hiring preference for participants in a three-year-old governmentwide program designed to help build professional development and expertise for senior leaders in national and homeland security issues, including nuclear proliferation, terrorism and natural disaster relief. The National Security Professional Development Interagency Rotations Program, created by the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, allows a group of executive branch employees to move among government agencies for one year to gain experience in security matters and help cultivate better cooperation among such agencies.

In the guidance, OPM instructed agencies to show such candidates “a strong preference” for national security jobs in the Senior Executive Service, but also gave agencies “discretion and flexibility” in crafting job requirements.

“Agencies need to conduct a job analysis to support a technical qualification requirement applicable to NSP [national security professional] SES positions addressing experience gained through interagency rotations,” said the June 15 memorandum from acting OPM Director Beth Cobert. “Agencies that develop such a requirement would give preference when selecting for NSP SES positions to those individuals who meet it, including using it as a tie-breaker in deciding two or more equally qualified individuals.”

But according to the Government Accountability Office, as of September 2015, “no employees had been assigned to rotations” under the program. “According to officials we spoke with and documents we reviewed, the program’s implementation is behind schedule because there has been limited leadership and oversight over its implementation and a number of actions need to be completed to address some of the roles, responsibilities, and tasks assigned to the departments and agencies,” said the November 2015 GAO report.

OPM told GAO at the time that it would develop guidance related to the program, and the June guidance appears to be a step in that direction. The memo also directed agencies to figure out which jobs the preference would apply to, conduct job analyses, and determine if “exceptions will be allowed, and under what circumstances.” 

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