OPM Says Agencies Have Too Many Special Hiring Authorities

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has released a new report entitled “Excepted Service Hiring Authorities: Their Use and Effectiveness in the Executive Branch” in which it finds that few efforts have been undertaken since OPM’s creation to look into the “tangled web of laws, regulations, authorities, and exceptions” governing the federal excepted service.

Marking OPM’s first formal study on the subject in more than 40 years, the report found that “Most excepted service occupied positions (82.1 percent in 2015) were filled using hiring authorities granted by Congress or Executive Order, rather than authorized by OPM through regulation. Many of those authorities place the resulting hiring processes outside of the operation of title 5 of the U.S. Code.”

The effort to look into the details could be fruitful in making the federal workforce less complex in its organization, according to OPM.

“Between FY12 and FY16, agencies used 51 of the 62 legal authorities that were available at the time,” the report states. “In addition, 92 percent of excepted service appointments were made using only 11 of the 51 legal authorities actually used by agencies during this period. Agencies may be unaware that some of these authorities exist; however, the non-use and low use of a significant number of excepted service legal authorities suggests it might be useful to explore ways to streamline the current authorities, where appropriate, as they may have become ineffective or obsolete. OPM also found some hiring authorities have similar purposes, which may indicate additional opportunities for streamlining.”

OPM also found that almost half of all agencies “do not sufficiently cover important aspects of how authorities are to be implement[ed].”

“Only 56 percent of agencies have a policy on handling applications for excepted service hiring, as required. Only 40 percent of agencies have policies regarding how to apply priority reemployment rights for certain individuals, and only half have a documented process for affording veterans’ preference in excepted service hiring.”

The full 51-page report, including detailed breakdowns of the types and uses of various pay authorities, is available via the CHCO Council website.

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