Agencies can rehire retired experts

OFPP urges agencies to take advantage of a provision in GSA Modernization Act

Hoops to jump through before hiring

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Office of Personnel Management have asked agencies for details about how they will use their new authority to hire retirees to supplement their acquisition workforce.

In a Sept. 4 memo, OFPP stipulated that retirees have a specific role to play as employees. To rehire a retiree, an agency must demonstrate one of the following:


  • The need for unique or unusually high qualifications. The agency must describe the skills and explain why the position is best suited to a retiree.

  • Exceptional difficulty recruiting an employee. The agency must describe its recruiting process and why it cannot fill the position otherwise.

  • Exceptional difficulty retaining an employee. An agency must show why the job couldn’t be assigned to another employee.

  • Temporary emergency hiring need. An agency must show that it is facing a hiring emergency and justify the length of time it will need the retiree.

— Matthew Weigelt

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Find a link to Denett’s memo about rehiring retirees on FCW.com’s Download at www.fcw.com/download.

As more federal acquisition experts retire, agencies are struggling to fill the knowledge gap. By using a little-known provision in the General Services Administration Modernization Act of 2006, managers can pull retirees back into contracting jobs without any pension penalties.

Recently, Congress has expressed an interest in expanding that provision. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced a bill Aug. 3 that would give agencies the flexibility “to bring retirees’ experience back into the federal workforce,” she said.
“Nearly 4,500 federal retirees have returned to work on a full-time basis, demonstrating the importance of these experienced employees to federal operations,” Collins said in a statement released last month.

Rehiring retirees does more than bring back knowledge and experience, union leaders say. Dan Adcock, assistant legislative director at the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said the policy saves money. If retirees want to work but have no incentive to return to government, they could end up at their former agencies as contractor employees rather than civil servants, he said.

“It’s in the federal government’s interest to bring back employees,” Adcock said.

Paul Denett, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, issued a memo Sept. 4 to explain the provision for hiring retirees. Almost a year after the GSA Modernization Act became law, the memo gives agencies the ability to hire retirees to fill critical acquisition vacancies without affecting their pensions.
Returning retirees can be mentors, supplemental staff members assigned to short-term projects or consultants for the agency.

“Getting good results from our acquisitions ultimately depends on the capabilities of the workforce,” Denett said in the memo. “Our workforce must be equipped with the skills and competencies required to meet the federal government’s increasingly complex needs.”
Agencies now rely more heavily on contracting to support their missions and handle a growing workload. Federal spending has nearly doubled since 2002, Denett said.

He wrote the memo to inform agencies about their options under the GSA Modernization Act. In the first eight months after the president signed the legislation, only the Homeland Security Department had submitted a draft plan to rehire retired employees, said Robert Burton, deputy administrator at OFPP. NASA has recently turned in a plan, but no other departments have.

According to Denett’s memo, an agency’s chief human capital officer, chief acquisition officer and the acquisition center manager must draft plans to apply the provision and send them to the Office of Personnel Management for review. OPM’s evaluation should not take more than 30 days because the agency recognizes the need to fill gaps, the memo states.

Higher salaries, among other benefits, draw federal employees to private-sector jobs, officials say. But the efforts of agencies and lawmakers to make returning to government a more attractive option could cause employees to reconsider.

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