Five federal managerial groups have asked Congress not to return the standard probationary period at DoD to the one year applying at most agencies from the two years in effect at that department since a 2015 change in law.

The annual defense authorization bill (HR-2500) as passed by the House Armed Services Committee would undo that change without explanation. Employee unions and their allies in Congress always have opposed a longer period, saying that it extends how long new employees lack full appeal rights and that that any inability to assess an employee within one year is a failure of management.


Says a letter to House members from groups including the Federal Managers Association and Senior Executives Association, “The change was created based on the understanding that one year often does not allow sufficient time for a supervisor to form conclusions regarding the performance of a new employee. It is our belief that many positions do indeed require more than one year to assess employee fit and job performance, providing that time sets the employee, the supervisor, and the agency up for success.

“It is unclear if this is no longer true, if the department determined the 2-year probationary period did not have the desired consequence, or if another consequence of the policy arose. We have heard from our members no issues nor evidence that the longer probationary period at DoD is inhibiting hiring of a qualified civilian workforce. Until these questions are answered, the policy should remain in place and be reviewed by an independent body, such as the Government Accountability Office to determine its success,” it says.

The Senate counterpart bill (S-1790) says nothing regarding probationary periods, likely leaving the issue to be decided a later conference between the two chambers.

The Senate bill also does not mirror the House’s request for a study that could lay the groundwork for repealing another policy applying only at DoD under that same law, elevating performance to the top of the RIF retention factors.

More on the federal employee probationary period at ask.FEDweek.com