The Department of Defense officially ended its hiring freeze. On Tuesday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work released his memorandum to military department secretaries “Lifting the Hiring Freeze for the Federal Workforce.” Here’s what you need to know about Deputy Secretary Work’s hiring guidance.
dod hiring freeze BACKGROUND
Among the several executive orders (EO) President Donald Trump signed on day one was his federal hiring memorandum. (See also, “10 Things to Know About the Federal Hiring Freeze). On March 13, the President signed EO 13781, “A Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch.” Then, as the Administration promised, about 90 days after the freeze, it thawed. On April 12, the hiring freeze ended. With that announcement, the White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney released his 14-page memo—“Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Workforce”—directing agencies to move forward with plans to reduce the size of the federal workforce. That plan, Work explains, “builds on Executive Order 13781 . . . to effect the President’s objective of rendering the government lean, accountable, and more efficient.”
PROCEED WITH CAUTION
The good news is that hiring restrictions for DoD are at an end. That means offices may re-energize the civil servant hiring machine. However, not all offices are equal as hiring restarts. In spite of the official end of the DoD freeze, several offices will keep riding the brakes. For instance, the Defense Intelligence enterprise will have to make hiring decisions in light of reorganization that may be just around the corner. Work directs that those offices “will assess . . . whether [positions] should be filled in light of the potential organizational and mission uncertainties.”
Federal News Radio’s Jared Serbu explains, “[T]he 2017 Defense authorization bill mandated that DoD eliminate the office of the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics and replace it with two new undersecretariats: one for research and engineering; one for acquisition and sustainment. Defense officials are already in the process of deciding which of AT&L’s legacy functions will belong within each of the new organizations.”
NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL
The thaw is not about getting back to filling old vacancies. Hiring plans should reflect current and future mission requirements, not simply fill vacant positions that may have been necessary in the past. Further, rather than hire or fill vacancies, offices will consider whether specific tasks can be effectively delegated or assigned to subordinate offices. In short, even offices unaffected by the 2017 NDAA are encouraged to proceed with caution, keeping in mind the President’s overarching objectives to shrink the workforce. “I expect Components to scrutinize carefully all recruitment and hiring actions,” Work writes, “and undertake to recruit and hire only when such are wholly consistent with the principles, requirements, and actions set forth in the [April 12] OMB memorandum.”
There are new opportunities for senior executives already in place at DoD. Rather than hire new senior executives to fill shortages, Deputy Secretary Work directs that the Department first look to redistributing the senior executive resources already in place. “Until a plan is established to address the reduction of Senior Executive Service (SES) positions . . . any action to recruit or fill an SES position, including a limited term appointment, shall be announced internally . . . .” Only after all those applications are considered (and rejected) may the Department even begin a hiring process for a new SES.
In bringing an end to the Department of Defense’s hiring freeze, Deputy Secretary Work puts a good deal of faith on a new business culture in DoD.