Fedweek

Limits on “burrowing in” – placing political appointees into career positions – apply after a presidential transition as well as before and any such actions are subject to OPM approval, OPM has reminded agencies.

“The political affiliation of a current or former political appointee applying for a civil service position may not be a basis for discrimination nor preference or special advantages,” it said.

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Although the numbers are relatively small in the context of the entire federal workforce, burrowing in is a long-running issue – especially just before a presidential transition in which party control of the White House changes – both because of the loss of job opportunities for career employees and the potential for politicization in the workplace.

Agencies must seek OPM approval prior to hiring any current or former political appointee into a “permanent non-political civil service position, including time-limited appointments that would allow for non-competitive conversion to a permanent appointment. A former or recent political appointee is someone who held a political appointment covered by OPM’s policy within the previous 5-year period,” a new memo says.

That applies to positions including current or former political appointees under the Executive Schedule, Schedule A, Schedule C, non-career SES, and agency-specific authorities, and into positions filled both through standard competition and through alternative means such as direct hire authority, it says.

“We encourage agencies to establish an internal process centralized at the headquarters level from which all agency requests will be submitted to OPM after their career staff review them. This allows each agency to confirm for itself that the selection is free of political influence before submission to OPM. This agency oversight could be expanded to include proposed appointments to time-limited appointments, even though OPM does not review appointments to temporary positions,” it says.

OPM review does apply to intelligence community entities, but they have their own procedures which they must follow, it added.

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