OPM Wants to Make it Easier to Hire for Tech Jobs

Officials will solicit info from agencies on a potential governmentwide direct hire authority for STEM and cybersecurity posts.

The Office of Personnel Management announced Wednesday that it is considering new ways to make it easier for agencies to hire people for STEM and cybersecurity posts.

In a memo to agency chief human capital officers, OPM Director Jeff Pon said his department is “exploring” the possibility of establishing a governmentwide direct hire authority for occupations in STEM and cybersecurity to help the government better compete with the private sector.

“[OPM] is aware that individuals with the knowledge, skills and ability to perform in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and cybersecurity occupations are in heavy demand and that this demand could, perhaps, be affecting mission critical functions,” Pon wrote.

Direct hire authority allows agencies to skip significant portions of the traditional competitive hiring process for jobs in the federal government, provided the posts fit an array of requirements, including proof of either a critical hiring need or a shortage of candidates. Pon wrote that OPM soon will ask agencies for information about the hiring process for tech and cybersecurity jobs to see if they meet the requirements for such a policy.

“In order to assess whether available evidence meets these requirements, OPM is proactively reviewing government-wide data; however, we will need input from you,” Pon wrote. “In the coming weeks, OPM will be distributing to you a survey aimed at obtaining additional information we need to determine whether a governmentwide or multi-agency DHA for STEM and cybersecurity positions could be justified, given the totality of the evidence.”

Pon said the survey will include requests for both quantitative information, as well as descriptions of how well the current hiring process has worked in recruiting qualified candidates.

In recent weeks, the new OPM director has signaled he would be active on all fronts in his effort to reform and modernize the federal civil service, from legislative proposals, like his request for a number of cuts to federal employee retirement programs, to fully using his authority to make administrative changes and expanding the role of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council.

“I want to make sure OPM is responsive to the federal community, and we’re turning over a new leaf, making sure agencies have more flexibilities, and if I can’t do it at an agency level then I’ll do it at an occupational level,” Pon said during a call with reporters last month. “That’s an authority of the director, it doesn’t need any legislation. I can implement a specialty pay with 90 days’ notice and two hearings and it would go into effect.”