Federal Manager's Daily Report

In a sign of how much agencies are turning away from traditional competitive service hiring processes to fill positions, the GAO has reported that DoD is now using alternative authorities—so-called “flexibilities”—for more than nine-tenths of hiring into its acquisition workforce.

“DoD leadership has encouraged its hiring personnel to use these flexibilities, such as direct hire authorities, to reduce the length of the hiring process,” said a report showing that the share increased from 80 percent to 95 percent over 2014-2018.

Direct hire authority allows an agency to hire candidates directly, without use of standard hiring procedures, into competitive service and other positions on grounds that there is a severe shortage of candidates or a critical hiring need to fill positions that traditional hiring procedures aren’t filling.

DoD has various forms of that authority for a number of occupations, including in its acquisition workforce of some 157,000 civilian employees—so many in fact, GAO said, that they cause confusion among HR offices and hiring managers about which are proper for a given situation and how to use them.

“DoD also increased its use of recruitment and retention flexibilities for its civilian acquisition workforce, increasing the dollar amount authorized from $13.9 million in fiscal year 2014 to $33.7 million in fiscal year 2018,” the report said.

It said that the department however does not specifically track the impact of using those special hiring or compensation authorities, with one result being for example that the Air Force and Navy used direct hire authority much more than the Army. Nor can it “accurately report on how long it takes to hire new personnel or the quality of new hires,” GAO said.