Federal Manager's Daily Report

OPM is considering granting direct hire authority in the STEM and cybersecurity fields, where the government has continuing recruitment and retention problems–both related in part to salaries it offers in comparison with competitors but the former also attributed in part to the government’s slower and more complex hiring process.

In a memo, OPM said it recognizes that “individuals with the knowledge, skills, and ability to perform in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and cybersecurity occupations are in heavy demand and that this demand could, perhaps, be affecting mission critical functions.”

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Direct hire authority allows agencies to hire candidates who meet job qualifications and other requirements, separate from standard hiring procedures, into career, temporary or term competitive service positions. Public notice requirements apply, but veterans preference does not. Currently, there are government-wide authorities for several occupations, including certain information security and IT positions, and DoD has individual authority for various scientific, engineering and research-type positions.

OPM said it “is exploring the feasibility, under applicable law, of issuing direct hire authority for certain STEM and cybersecurity occupations” but to invoke that authority certain conditions must be met: a severe shortage of candidates or a critical hiring need. OPM said that it is reviewing government-wide data but it also soon will send agencies a survey to determine whether a government-wide or multi agency direct hire authority for those occupations is justified.

“The data we need will be both qualitative and quantitative – to get a better picture of how the hiring process is working today, and better understand any challenges you may indicate you have encountered in trying to recruit for these positions,” director Jeff Pon wrote.

A recent executive order called for expanded direct hire authority for IT-related positions for term appointments of up to four years, which could be extended up to four more years. It told OPM to delegate to each agency the authority to decide whether the conditions meriting the authority exist and to promptly grant it if so.