Jobs for Military Spouses, Agency Layoffs, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The Office of Personnel Management announced last week that it would develop regulations to remove the two-year time limit for spouses of military personnel who are relocated on permanent duty to have preferred status when applying for civilian federal government jobs.

The rule stating that spouses could only be considered for a “noncompetitive appointment” within the first two years after a service member is relocated was repealed as part of the fiscal 2017 defense authorization act, signed by President Obama in December 2016.

OPM said in an Aug. 8 memo that while it still is working on an update to its regulations, all agencies should consider the provision that allows for such hires to be available to spouses indefinitely.

“Under the amended statute, a relocating spouse of a member of the armed forces remains eligible for noncompetitive appointment under this section for the duration of the spouse’s relocation to the permanent duty station of the member,” wrote acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan. “Section 1131 of the NDAA was effective upon the president’s signature, and agencies should apply the new provision when appointing certain military spouses.”

The news comes following an Aug. 2 White House listening session with military spouses, which included Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon and White House senior advisers Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump. According to pool reports, one of the key issues that the spouses raised was the 16 percent unemployment rate among military wives.

While public sector job prospects may be rising for some military spouses, the outlook isn’t so rosy for current federal workers. Eric Katz reports that agency officials have been privately soliciting advice from OPM about how to most effectively lay off employees:

Agencies are “pretty certain” they will need to institute reductions in force as they aim to satisfy an executive order from President Trump and ensuing guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, said Leslie Pollack, deputy associate director of OPM’s HR Strategy and Evaluation Solutions, on WJLA’s “Government Matters” program. Those documents required executive branch agencies to reorganize themselves and, in the process, cut the size of their workforces. Pollack’s office, which provides human resources consulting to federal agencies, has assisted officials across government looking at “closing down or realigning functions.”

“They are coming to us specifically and saying ‘I’m pretty certain I need to run a reduction in force,’ and that is one area where OPM and our group in particular has some expertise in helping take a look at their situation and actually execute according to the restructuring rules and all the policies and procedures that are in place,” Pollack said. “So we’re definitely getting those questions.”

Over on Capitol Hill, the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis Wednesday on the 2017 TSP Modernization Act (H.R. 3031), which was reported favorably out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last month. The legislation increases federal employees and retirees’ flexibility with handling money invested in the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement plan, allowing an unlimited number of withdrawals instead of one after they turn 59.5 or one after they retire. It also would allow on-the-fly adjustments to annuity payments and the frequency of those payments.

The analysts noted that staff on Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the bill would affect revenues, since new withdrawal rules could affect the “timing of taxes paid on the amounts withdrawn.” But CBO argued those effects would be “negligible.”

CBO said the bill would not increase spending or significantly increase the federal deficit in the next 40 years.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee also has approved its version of the bill (S.873). The legislation could see final consideration by either chamber as early as next month.