OPM Issues New Rule to Address IT Skills Gap in Agencies

This week, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced a new rule providing agency heads with the authority “to not only determine whether their organizations need direct-hire authority to fill certain IT positions but also grant that authority on their own,” writes Federal News Network’s Nicole Ogrysko.

The rule follows the President’s May Executive Order elevating the role of CIOs within federal agencies, initiatives intended to provide a boost to broader modernization initiatives within the federal government.

The authority will give agency heads more flexibility in filling critical skills gaps, alleviating some of the bureaucratic work typically associated with the new-hire process. According to Ogrysko, agency leaders “can use this authority to hire top candidates to IT positions for an initial appointment for longer than a year, but no more than four years, according to the regulations.”

The appointments can be extended “for up to another four years, but direct-hire employees can’t serve for more than eight years at the same agency,” with the employees themselves enabled to move to other agencies, as long as the new position is within the relevant field, ostensibly creating a new pipeline of talent into the federal government’s weakest workforce areas.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in which it detailed “gaps in skilled talent in the federal workforce—talent that is critical in areas like cybersecurity, acquisitions, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).”

GAO noted that OPM’s failure to track data on the use of some efforts to boost federal IT workforce numbers means it is difficult to know what is working and what is not, as OPM “hasn’t consistently shared best practices and innovative ways to use special payments.”

“By not tracking data and providing guidance to help agencies, OPM may be missing opportunities to promote the use of special payments and will be unable to determine whether payments help agencies to improve recruitment and retention,” the report said.

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