Workforce

House panel wants answers from the Army on hiring freeze exemptions

Jason Chaffetz and Mark Meadows 

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) have questions about how the Army is implementing exemptions to the civilian hiring freeze. 

President Donald Trump’s hiring freeze appears to have caused some confusion within Army garrisons, prompting Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to offer some clarity regarding the order's exemptions.

The freeze order, signed Jan. 23, put a 90-day halt on civil service hiring and pay raises for federal employees, with exceptions for positions affecting national security and public safety. To mollify confusion regarding who is covered by the order, the Office of Personnel Management released follow-up guidance.

In February, commanding officers at Army posts at Fort Knox, Ky., and Wiesbaden, Germany, cited the freeze order as adversely affecting their abilities to hire staff for military childcare programs and, in response, suspended or closed certain childcare programs.

In a letter to Acting Army Secretary Robert Speer, Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) wrote that these moves were not necessary as part of the freeze, and they wanted to make sure other bases are not similarly confused. 

"As we understand it, hiring authorities for childcare programs were restored by your order at Fort Knox and Wiesbaden," they wrote, adding, "the need for additional exemptions at other bases may require approval from you as well."

The lawmakers also clarified that the freeze grants executive department heads and military department secretaries -- such as Speer -- the ability to exempt national security or public safety positions from the freeze. They added that childcare programs were "explicitly exempted" by the deputy secretary of Defense through a memorandum.

"Our military men and women should be able to protect our country without having to worry about who will care for their children," they wrote.

To make sure other bases aren't similarly confused or available exemptions go unused, the lawmakers requested a list of steps Army is taking to ensure exemption requests are taken care of by March 16.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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