On Jan. 23, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum ordering a 90-day hiring freeze for federal employees. The Atlantic reported that the order is meant to be a temporary solution, with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) expected to release a more comprehensive solution before the mid-April deadline.
The New York Times reported that the White House clarified the intentions of the freeze, stating that it is meant to stymie the use of tax dollars for federal hiring, which the administration believes to be out of control.
Who does the hiring freeze affect?
According to guidance from OPM and OMB, the hiring freeze affects all executive departments and agencies as well as all federal civilian appointments. The guidance further stated that any vacant positions which existed on Jan. 22 are not to be filled and no new positions may be created. Furthermore, agencies are not allowed to circumvent the order by hiring contractors from commercial vendors.
While the order covers nearly all the positions the federal government would normally hire for, there are a number of important exceptions, including:
- Military personnel and federal uniformed personnel
- Positions in programs where limiting personnel would conflict with the law
- Seasonal and short-term temporary employees
- The U.S. Postal Service
- Intelligence agencies
- Some internship programs
- Promotions and reallocations
- Positions necessary to meet national security needs or public safety responsibilities
Shortly after the hiring freeze was put in place, the Department of Veterans Affairs explained it would continue to hire for positions with public safety missions, which includes doctors, nurses, counselors and other health care professionals, reported The Washington Post.
What does the hiring freeze mean for job seekers?
Some federal government jobs will still be filled if they are deemed important to national security, public health and safety or for the other exemptions listed above. However, until OPM and OMB can create a long-term plan, many job seekers will be left waiting. That includes veterans, who typically receive preferential treatment when applying to federal positions.
Defense positions may be safe
On Feb. 1, the U.S. Department of Defense issued a memorandum further clarifying the types of positions it would exempt from the hiring freeze. CNBC reported that some of those functions include nuclear weapons safety and cyber security.
"As is the case with our own personal budgets, so is the same with the federal government; there is a need to rein in spending and assess where it can be reduced, cut or increased," notesMike Boyles, Division Manager of Beacon Hill's National Security Division. "With all aspects of our lives so interconnected through the internet, one area that needs to remain a priority is cyber security. At the federal level, the military and intelligence community, as well as law enforcement, need to have the resources available to them to keep our data, and our livelihood, protected."
As cyber security has come into sharper focus over the past few years, more federal government jobs in that sector have opened up, and there has been significant pressure from politicians on both sides of the aisle to increase the nation's protection from foreign cyber threats. A look back at notable government hacks from 2016 shows the need for better security.
"Cyber security positions may be exempt from the hiring freeze."
Job seekers interested in mission-critical cyber security positions with the federal government may have an easier time navigating the hiring freeze than others, but the way forward may still be difficult. Getting help from an experienced, knowledgeable recruiter could speed up the hiring process.
It should also be noted that, at the end of 2016, former President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which increased defense spending to $619 billion. This additional budget not only means increased salaries for service personnel, but may also augment the Defense Department's ability to hire for those positions unaffected by the hiring freeze.
Until OPM and OMB release an update to the 90-day plan, there will remain much uncertainty about which positions will be filled. For now, federal government jobs in the defense field appear to be the safest.
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