Federal Manager's Daily Report

The Federal Managers Association has said it is “disappointed” that the recently enacted DoD authorization would return that department to using the one-year probationary period that is standard elsewhere and has urged that Congress remain open to staying with the two-year period that has been in effect there for the last five years.

The recently-signed bill reinstates a one-year period for DoD effective in calendar year 2023 even though a study of the issue that Congress earlier ordered has not been completed. During consideration of the bill, the FMA had urged waiting until the results were released, and in a new statement said that with the report now expected within only a matter of weeks or several months, “acting now makes zero sense.”

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“In the spirit of the Biden administration’s promise in the President’s Management Agenda to be guided by science and data on these decisions, we urge Congress to reconsider a two-year probationary period in the FY 2023 NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] if the data supports it,” the FMA said.

The probationary period issue is one of the areas of disagreement between federal unions and managerial organizations, which agree on many other issues regarding federal personnel policy. Managerial organizations had supported a longer period—during which employees lack full appeal rights—arguing that many federal jobs require extensive training and on-the-job learning before a new employee can be assessed.

Both the AFGE and NFFE unions in contrast lauded the repeal, with the latter for example calling two years “excessive.” Unions argue that one year is long enough to assess an employee’s performance and that a longer period leaves them vulnerable to discrimination and favoritism with no legal recourse.

While the longer period had been authorized during the Obama administration, it was done mainly at the initiative of congressional Republicans, who saw the DoD as a potential test case for making the same change government-wide.

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