Federal Manager's Daily Report

The numbers of temporary and term employees at DoD rose from about 30,000 to about 40,000 in recent years, GAO has reported, adding that officials said they “were not aware of any specific reasons” for the increases.

DoD like other agencies uses such appointments to fill positions for which they don’t expect an indefinite need, such as one-time projects with a planned ending date. However, those employees are not eligible for the full range of employee benefits and federal employee organizations commonly argue that agencies over-use the authorities as a cost-saving measure rather than hiring more expensive permanent employees.

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The GAO report was ordered by Congress in 2019 after DoD over several previous years extended the maximum duration for a term appointment from four to eight years and the maximum for a temporary appointment from two to three years. Occupations for which the authorities commonly are used, it said, include heavy equipment mechanics, police and security guards, administration, information technology, and civil engineering.

GAO found an increase in term personnel by 40 percent over 2016-2019 to about 35,000 but a slight decrease in temporary appointments. About a third eventually were converted to permanent civilian positions, GAO added.

GAO said that DoD officials suggested that the increase was because components “may have become familiar with the term and temporary appointment flexibilities, and proposed that the increase might be mission specific for the military services.” For example, it said, there were surges in workloads during that period due to disaster relief efforts and the need to repair combat equipment returning from overseas operations.

GAO made no recommendations other than that the department conduct a survey to assess employee perceptions of the use of those authorities, to which DoD agreed.

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2022 Federal Employees Handbook