OPM has granted government-wide direct-hire authority in many science, technology, engineering and math related fields where the government has a long record of difficulties in recruiting and retention.
Under direct hire, agencies may appoint candidates directly, without use of standard hiring procedures, into competitive service career, career-conditional, term, or temporary 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.
The new authority applies to economists, biological science, fishery biologist, general engineer, civil engineer, physical sciences, actuary, mathematics, mathematical statistician and acquisition positions at GS-11 through -15, and computer engineer, computer scientist, electronics engineer and IT cybersecurity specialists at GS-12 through -15. That is added to prior government-wide authorities OPM granted for information security, certain medical officers and others government-wide; in addition, DoD has a number of authorities specific to it under a series of laws.
The appointments are subject to public notice requirements as well as procedures pertaining to candidates’ eligible for priority selection, according to a memo to agencies. “Agencies are required to request an applicable pre-employment background investigation at the appropriate tier to establish whether candidates are suitable for federal employment, may be credentialed in accordance with government-wide credentialing standards and can hold a position that is national security sensitive,” it says.
“Agencies must identify and use proper assessment tools for the positions being filled with these direct hire authorities to determine who is qualified for the covered positions. Agencies should not conduct additional rating to determine relative degrees of qualifications when using this authority. Agencies should assess applicants in the order in which the applications were received, and select any qualified applicant in an order that approximates order of receipt. Qualified candidates with veterans’ preference should be selected as they are found, just as any qualified non-preference eligible candidate would be,” it says.
While the grant of authority was one of the first official steps of Margaret Weichert in her new role as acting OPM director, it is the culmination of work that has been under way for a number of months. Her predecessor, Jeff Pon, had asked agencies for information about their recruiting and retention experiences in those fields to make sure the situation meets the requirements in law for using that authority.