A search on USAJobs.gov for "policy" shows 7,134 openings including for a health science policy analyst at NIH and environmental policy analyst at the EPA. Image: Bob Korn/Shutterstock.com

Moving federal employees in positions involved in making or carrying out policy from the competitive service to the excepted service, as anticipated by a new executive order would change the status of such positions in areas ranging from hiring to firing.

In excepted service hiring, agencies need not even publicize generally that a position is available and do not use the ranking procedures used in competitive service hiring to identify top candidates for referral to the hiring official. Further, veterans preference applies in excepted service only “as far as administratively feasible.”


Says the order, “Given the importance of the functions they discharge, employees in such positions must display appropriate temperament, acumen, impartiality, and sound judgment. Due to these requirements, agencies should have a greater degree of appointment flexibility with respect to these employees than is afforded by the existing competitive service process.”

“This action will also give agencies greater ability and discretion to assess critical qualities in applicants to fill these positions, such as work ethic, judgment, and ability to meet the particular needs of the agency. These are all qualities individuals should have before wielding the authority inherent in their prospective positions, and agencies should be able to assess candidates without proceeding through complicated and elaborate competitive service processes or rating procedures that do not necessarily reflect their particular needs,” it says.

The order further would remove job protections in disciplinary cases, saying those protections require agencies to “comply with extensive procedures before taking adverse action against an employee. These requirements can make removing poorly performing employees difficult . . . Agencies need the flexibility to expeditiously remove poorly performing employees from these positions without facing extensive delays or litigation.”

It adds that while protections against “prohibited personnel practices” would continue for affected employees, agencies would be required to request the FLRA to exclude any who are in union bargaining units from those units, “paying particular attention to the question of whether incumbents in such positions are required or authorized to formulate, determine, or influence the policies of the agency.”

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FERS Retirement Guide 2022