Workforce

OPM carves out broad hiring exception for digital services

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Agencies' digital services hiring just got a lot more flexible.

Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta has OK'd excepted-service appointments for digital service experts at the General Schedule 11 to 15 levels – though the stints will be limited and temporary – in support of the President’s Management Agenda’s Smarter IT Delivery Initiative projects.

The move comes as the Office of Management and Budget is pushing agencies to create in-house digital services teams akin to the General Service Administration’s 18F and OMB's U.S. Digital Services Office.

"[Smarter IT project] teams will need staff with skills in modern digital product design, software engineering, product management, creating and maintaining flexible infrastructure, and designing and implementing agile governance structures," Archuleta noted in a May 1 memo.

Describing the roles authorized for excepted-service status, she wrote, "These technical positions would involve in-depth knowledge of and experience in creating modern digital services, gap analysis expertise in understanding where shortfalls exist in capacity to design, develop, deploy, and operate customer-facing services, specialized knowledge in digital service consolidation and migration, cloud service utilization, and business process standardization to support a wide variety of mission requirements."

Veterans' preference still applies, but public notice does not (though agencies were "strongly encourage[d]" to follow appropriate notice and recruiting measures).

Archuleta wrote that the exemption may be used only to fill positions for Smarter IT Delivery Initiative projects directly funded in the 2016 budget or in a range of other projects "directly associated with Smarter IT Delivery Initiative projects."

The list of agencies and projects that can utilize the new excepted-service appointments includes 25 agencies, from NASA to the Justice Department, and numerous specific programs.

Appointments can be extended in year-long increments, Archuleta wrote, but no appointments can be extended past Sept. 30, 2017.

Agency executives are likely pleased with the fast-tracking of digital services hires.

"I obviously applaud it," said Department of Transportation CIO Richard McKinney.

He said he hasn't had a chance to review the specific rule changes, but noted that agency executives have long wanted more flexibility when it came to hiring digital services experts.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a former FCW staff writer.

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