Agencies Post Job Openings Despite Sequester

Departments defend the practice; OPM distinguishes postings from hires.

A job posting is not a hire, according the federal government human resources’ agency, and searching for new talent is critical despite severe budget cuts.

The Office of Personnel Management made the assertion after a Washington Times report found that many federal agencies are hiring despite the across-the-board spending cuts from sequestration, widespread hiring freezes and scheduled furlough many current employees..

The federal government is currently looking to fill about 27,000 jobs -- more than one-third of which were posted after the automatic cuts went into effect -- according to the Times.

Many of the jobs were high grade levels, with one in four paying more than $113,000 a year. More than 4,300 of the total openings, however, were for the Veterans Affairs Department, which is largely exempt from sequestration cuts.

The Agriculture Department has posted more than 10,000 jobs, the most of any agency. USDA used a reprogramming of funds to avoid furloughs, though some of its sub-agencies have implemented a hiring freezes to reach the necessary savings.

The Defense Department, which sent out furlough notices to about 650,000 civilian workers Tuesday, is hiring thousands of employees -- including bartenders and waiters. A Pentagon spokeswoman defended the postings, however, telling Government Executive the jobs were non-appropriated funds positions.

“They are not funded by congressional money,” said Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde. “As we put together furlough plans, non-appropriated employee plans were excepted [from sequestration].”

The Transportation Security Administration, which instituted a hiring freeze in March to avoid employee furloughs, has posted 436 job openings. TSA received additional funds through a government spending measure passed in March, which “has enabled TSA to mitigate to some degree the impacts on their workforce and operations,” a spokesperson for TSA said.

“We have focused the limited resources provided by Congress on backfilling some positions at airports with higher attrition rates, in order to maintain baseline security operations,” the spokesperson said, adding that overall TSA has decreased its workforce by 600 full-time equivalents since sequestration went into effect.

The Office of Management and Budget sent a memo to all federal agencies in February to “increase scrutiny” on hiring new personnel.

OPM, tasked with overseeing all federal hires, told Government Executive simply posting the positions can help managers gauge the field of potential applicants to make realistic determinations about what their agencies need and what they can afford.

“A job posting is not the same thing as a hire,” an OPM spokesman said. “Oftentimes agencies will post a job announcement to solicit candidates to get a better understanding of the skill sets out there or they have continuous job announcements posted for hard-to-fill positions. It could be helpful to post a job and solicit candidates so when the budget situation allows they are prepared to hire.”

He added each agency makes its own hiring decisions “given their budget situation and the positions they need to fulfill their mission.” 

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(Image via Bryan Sikora/Shutterstock.com)

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