Fedweek

The House Armed Services Committee has held a hearing on recommendations on a number of hiring and other federal employment policies that a special commission issued last spring but which were largely set aside until now due to the focus on the pandemic.

The hearing on the report of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service is potentially a prelude for a move to including some of recommendations in the DoD authorization bill, which commonly serves as a vehicle for personnel policy changes not only at that department but government-wide.

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However, some of the recommendations, especially those regarding benefits, would involve substantial changes that could be enacted only after an extensive review by other committees and the administration.

On hiring, recommendations included updating the application process and candidate assessment methods; limiting the role of veterans preference; expanding hiring from programs such as fellowships and scholarships; establishing a Public Service Corps similar to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to create a path for college students into federal jobs; encouraging agencies to make fuller use of authorities to retain and reskill employees; and expand special programs for high-demand occupations.

Among the notable recommendations regarding benefits were to offer an optional retirement program for those not interested in a full career with the government with increased agency contributions to the TSP but no annuity benefit; and offer a “cafeteria” approach to benefits in which employees could direct government contributions toward the benefits they value the most.

While members of the commission were the only witnesses at the hearing and received a generally supportive response, the AFGE union issued a statement opposing many of the ideas, some of which have been raised by previous studies but have not advanced. It argued that special hiring authorities already are overused and subject to abuse, and that a better course for recruiting into hard to fill positions would be to expand the pool of candidates.

It also opposed the recommendations regarding benefits, saying that “If the goal is to inspire a broader spectrum of society to serve and retain their service, it is counterproductive to include proposals that reduce compensation and provide a disincentive to continue in public service.”

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