New guidance from the Trump administration regarding its general hiring freeze describes considerations for agencies when exempting positions at their discretion and a process to request OPM to grant additional exceptions.

OMB memo M-17-18, issued jointly by that agency and by OPM, describes types of positions and other personnel actions affected or not by the general freeze, along with guidance on applying the general exceptions for national security or public safety-related jobs.

It says: “The head of any agency may exempt any positions that it deems necessary to: (i) meet national security (including foreign relations) responsibilities, or (ii) meet public safety responsibilities (including essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property). Agencies may refer to longstanding guidance, which provides examples of such activities in OMB Memorandum, Agency Operations in the Absence of Appropriations dated 11/17/1981.”

In making those decisions, agencies are to involve “appropriate personnel” including the CHCOC or equivalent and agency counsel.

To request additional exceptions, agencies should send in writing to OPM: an explanation of the critical need to fill a position and how it relates to essential services or critical mission requirements; why reassignment or detail of existing staff within the agency is not possible to meet the need; and the urgency of the need and the consequences of not filling the position within a three- to six-month timeframe.