10 Things to Know About the Federal Hiring Freeze

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There’s no free lunch. Thanks to William S. Burroughs there is a Naked Lunch. And in exchange for some simple data, there’s Government Executive’s free Special Report: The Federal Hiring Freeze. Here are 10 things to know about the big freeze:

One: No, it’s not unprecedented! Both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan froze federal hiring, but with little real success meeting their government-savings objectives. You can read about them in the old Comptroller General’s Report from March 1982: “Government-wide hiring freezes have not been an effective means of controlling Federal employment. . . . they had little effect on Federal employment levels, and it is not known whether they saved money.”

Two: The freeze thaws when OPM publishes its own plan to shrink the government workforce. President Trump gave OPM 90 days to accomplish that, so, indeed, right around Easter-time when seersucker and white bucks are allowed again, more federal hiring will be allowed again, too.

Three: If you’re looking for work at the Central Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or the U.S. Post Office, keep looking: they’re all hiring.

Four: The Department of Veterans Affairs was quick to throw the hiring freeze flag. VA has exempted doctors, nurses, therapists (“front-line patient caregiver jobs”). Positions related to major VA construction projects were exempted, including project manager, professional engineer, contracting specialist and realty specialist. And VA made clear: there may be more exemptions.

Five: The Department of Defense took VA’s lead, exempting outright five broad categories. DoD can argue that the position is related to nation security or public safety, then exempt it . . . and arguably that can be just about any position.

Six: If the position is one that would survive a government shutdown, then it’s very likely unaffected by the hiring freeze.

Seven: When it comes to the freeze, all pigs aren’t equal. For instance, things are still warm and pleasant for political appointees and for those protected by collective bargaining agreements. Schedule C and non-career Senior Executive Service positions are unaffected.

Eight: Of course, the military can still recruit, and that includes the Coast Guard (why wouldn’t it?), and the commissioned officer corps of both the U.S. Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Nine: Folks looking forward to seasonal work are in luck: “Agencies can fill temporary and seasonal vacancies as necessary to meet ‘traditionally recurring season workloads,’ though they must keep OMB’s Resource Management Office informed.” I guess that means lifeguards and summer-temp national park support, among others.

Ten: And then the catch-all: for agencies desiring more exemptions, all they have to do is ask, and justify the critical need to the OPM director.

If you start Federal service today, 22 February, you just squeaked in the door and should buy a PowerBall ticket ASAP. If you didn’t make it and you’re still looking forward to starting a government career, don’t despair. As with the Carter and Reagan freezes, a fair amount of the freeze is simply “an illusion of control on Federal employment.”

Ed Ledford enjoys the most challenging, complex, and high stakes communications requirements. His portfolio includes everything from policy and strategy to poetry. A native of Asheville, N.C., and retired Army Aviator, Ed’s currently writing speeches in D.C. and working other writing projects from his office in Rockville, MD. He loves baseball and enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring anything. Follow Ed on Twitter @ECLedford.