One of the federal personnel policy changes in President Trump’s recent set of three executive orders that could be carried out the most quickly tells OPM to propose within 45 days rules to “prioritize performance over length of service when determining which employees will be retained following a reduction in force.”

Under general government-wide policy, performance is the fourth RIF retention factor, after type of appointment, veterans preference and length of service. The executive order reflects long-running arguments by many conservatives for elevating the role of performance in RIFs, although it does not provide further guidance for changing the existing policy.

However, an exception already has been in place for more than a year at DoD, under language that Congress inserted in its 2016 budget, that could serve as a ready-made model. At DoD, an employee’s “rating of record” is the first retention factor, followed by tenure group, “average score,” veterans preference and length of service.

The “rating of record,” is the average of the employee’s last two performance evaluations, rounded up to the next whole number. For tenure groups, temporary employees and those with term appointments (Tenure Group III) always will be separated before any employees with career status (Tenure Group I) or with career-conditional status (less than three years of service; Tenure Group II). The “average score” is the average of an individual’s ratings on specific performance standards, not rounded. Regarding veterans’ preference, first priority is for those with a 30 percent or more disability rating, then others with preference, ahead of those without preference.

Other RIF policies, for example defining the “competitive area” and the rights of employees to “retreat” to available lower-level positions under certain circumstances, did not change at DoD. The executive order makes no mention of changing them government-wide.