Workforce

Number of veterans in federal workforce grew in 2016

Shutterstock image. Military-civilian transition. 

The number of veterans employed by the federal government grew steadily in recent years, peaking at almost one-third of the entire executive branch workforce, according to data published Sept. 12 by the Office of Personnel Management.

Of the approximately 229,000 hires made in the executive branch in fiscal year 2016, more than 71,000 were veterans, representing almost one-third of all new hires and a bump of more than 11,500 veterans compared to the previous year.

The increase brought the total number of veterans in the executive branch to 635,266, out of a total workforce of just more than 2 million.

In 2009, when former President Barack Obama issued an executive order charging agencies to focus on improving employment opportunities for veterans, veterans represented 25.8 percent of executive branch employees.

That executive order also established the Veterans Employment Initiative to help agencies fill mission-critical staffing needs with veterans. VEI is governed by an interagency council comprising the 24 largest agencies and co-chaired by the secretaries of Labor and Veterans Affairs. The OPM director serves as vice-chair.

In a statement, OPM's Director of Veterans' Services and executive director of the interagency council Hakeem Basheerud-Deen said, "It has been very encouraging to see more opportunities for veteran hires to significantly address the critical staffing needs the Federal government faces."

"OPM continues to support the Veterans Employment Initiative," he said. "We remain committed to offering opportunities for federal agencies to learn about the benefits of making skillful use of the veteran hiring authorities to meet hiring needs."

The agencies employing the highest proportion of veterans are the Departments of Defense (47.5 percent of all civilian employees), Transportation (36.7 percent) and Veterans Affairs (32.8 percent). The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services lagged other agencies with veteran employment levels of below 10 percent for FY2016.

The veteran population in the federal workforce skews very heavily male; more than 80 percent of veterans in federal employment are men. Vets are more likely than the average fed to be black or Hispanic. They also are more likely to work outside the D.C. metro area, less likely to have a college degree, and fall slightly lower on average on the general schedule pay scale than non-veterans.

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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