The new joint OMB-OPM memo providing further guidance on the general hiring freeze addresses the issue of backfilling positions by hiring contractors.

The potential for additional contracting-out has been one of the major points raised by federal employee organizations, some members of Congress and others who oppose a freeze. They cite a GAO report that concluded that prior hiring freezes may have actually added to the government’s costs for that reason.

The initial freeze memo from the Trump administration sought to address that concern by prohibiting the hiring of more contractors to take up the slack, although it provided no specifics.

The new memo says that agencies must not contract outside the government to “circumvent the intent” of the hiring freeze. “For example, agencies shall not acquire by contract with a commercial vendor services that are substantially similar to those that would have been provided by a federal civilian in a vacancy covered” by the freeze, it says.

“However, nothing in this memorandum is intended to restrict agencies from continuing, modifying, or entering into service contracts for other purposes, consistent with law, regulation, and any applicable management direction,” it adds.