Fedweek

The defense budget bill (HR-5515) set for a House vote this week would make only relatively minor changes in personnel policies in the short run while anticipating more major changes to be considered next year, potentially to include expanding family-friendly work arrangements.

Numerous amendments typically are offered to that bill during floor voting, however, potentially including some that would have a broader impact either on just the DoD workforce or across the government.

The bill as it emerged from the committee level would: grant DoD direct hire authority for positions involving maintenance, depot maintenance, cybersecurity, acquisition, and the STEM fields; expand a current authority for DoD to recruit and hire recent graduates into competitive service positions; create additional exceptions to the general policy against hiring retired military personnel into civilian positions within six months of their retirement; and continue long-running authority to waive limits on premium pay and annual compensation for employees working overseas in dangerous situations, and for certain forward-deployed Navy employees.

Government-wide provisions would give agencies more flexibility to: decide how many candidates for a competitive service position to pass along to the hiring manager from a referral list, with a minimum of three; and make temporary or term appointments into competitive service positions and noncompetitive “critical needs” appointments.

The measure also orders DoD to report before next February—the start of the next budget cycle—on its use of telework and other work scheduling flexibilities with an eye to expand them. A report on the bill cites concern “that a lack of professional flexibility in the civilian work force limits the ability of the Department of Defense and the military services to attract and retain highly trained mid-level career professionals. Family planning and an individual’s desire to further their education are two frequently cited reasons why professionals seek more flexible work schedules.”

The assessment is to include information on “the frequency with which these policies are used by each pay-band and career-field, whether certain career-fields have been exempted from certain flexibility programs and the justification for exemption, the number of employees who have been denied opportunities to do work-share, job-share, part-time work, or telework, and how many of these employees, as a result, have left the federal government.”

The bill further orders reports on potential wider use of incentive pay to hire in the STEM fields and the potential for wider use of direct hire authority.