The Infrastructure Law Will Require Thousands of New Feds, and the Biden Team Is Giving Special Permission to Hire Them Quickly
OPM is also pushing special hiring authority for HR staff.
The Biden administration is creating a special hiring authority to help agencies support the president’s signature infrastructure law, the Office of Personnel Management announced on Tuesday.
Agencies will be able to use the Schedule A expedited hiring authority for positions related to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act through September 2027. The positions will include climate scientists, structural engineers and clean water experts, OPM said. Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young told Congress on Wednesday that agencies would need to hire 4,000 employees to carry out the law.
“These are exciting jobs, and they are critically important,” OPM director Kiran Ahuja said in a memorandum to agency leaders.
Under the special authority, agencies are not required to publicly post openings and can bypass other steps that typically bog down federal hiring. Employees hired under the authority for infrastructure implementation will serve one-year terms, but their tenures can be extended in one-year increments.
Schedule A authority is typically used to hire applicants with disabilities, which the Obama administration targeted when it brought on more than 100,000 such workers over a five-year period. The Trump administration tapped the hiring mechanism to allow agencies to hire for jobs related specifically to COVID-19 response, which President Biden extended last year.
OPM has taken several steps to help agencies prepare for the spending of the $1.2 trillion in the infrastructure law, which is being overseen from the White House by former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. The human resources agency has created a “talent surge playbook” to help agencies assess already available tools to quickly boost hiring and said it is working directly with offices across government to address their specific needs. OPM previously sent letters to agencies to authorize direct hiring—another form of expedited recruiting and onboarding—to help process new employees related to the infrastructure law. USAJOBS, the federal jobs board site, has launched a page for infrastructure-related openings.
At a confirmation hearing to head OMB on a permanent basis, Young told a Senate committee she and Deputy Director for Management Jason Miller are working on “waivers and things we can do to bring people in faster” to support the infrastructure law’s rollout. She also vowed to work on improving and expediting federal hiring outside of that context.
“I’ve been a civil servant and you need an advanced degree in some cases to learn how to get through the hiring system, so you have my commitment to work on that,” Young said.
Courtney Bublé contributed to this report.