The government’s three largest departments have now issued guidance on how they will carry out the Trump administration’s general federal hiring freeze, with the latest, DHS, following in the footsteps of the DoD and the VA in indicating that exceptions to the freeze will apply widely there. In a memo, DHS told its components to recommend to headquarters “which occupations they believe are necessary to meet national security and public safety responsibilities. Given our critical mission to secure the nation and ensure the public’s safety, we anticipate the majority of our occupations will be exempt from the general hiring freeze.” Once the review is complete, and headquarters has approved the exemptions, “the components will have the ability to continue hiring using all appropriate means.” It reminded components of other exceptions–for career ladder promotions and other reasons–adding that “reassignments and details within DHS will be implemented to ensure our highest priority needs are met.” DoD earlier similarly told its components to examine positions by function, with many likely to fall under the national security exception; VA headquarters meanwhile specifically exempted more than 100 occupations, most under the public safety exception. While neither has said how many positions will be carved out, the exceptions could turn out to be the rule in both of those departments, as well. The three collectively account for about two-thirds of federal employment outside the Postal Service and intelligence community–USPS is exempt due to its self-funding nature and the latter is virtually fully exempt under the national security exception. Meanwhile, members of Congress are continuing to propose further exclusions from the freeze. The latest measure, HR-1001, would allow agencies to continue to fill vacant federal civilian jobs and create new positions for veterans and veterans preference-eligible individuals; sponsors argue that because the federal government hires a disproportionately high percentage of veterans compared with the private sector, the freeze will disproportionately dampen their job prospects. Various other bills would exempt all of the VA (HR-696), the Indian Health Service (HR-981) and DoD shipyards (HR-742) and depots (HR-990).
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