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Washington, D.C. -- Congress heard today that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has provided consistent leadership and guidance to agencies on ways to improve federal hiring practices.
Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Civil Service and Agency Organization, OPM Deputy Director Dan G. Blair cited the extensive work the agency has performed in order to equip federal agencies with the knowledge and tools to meet their human capital needs. Subcommittee member Danny Davis (IL) agreed that agencies have available numerous hiring flexibilities that simply need to be used. The Defense Department's David Chu said DOD would begin using the Category Rating Authority, a specific merit-based, human resources flexibility that expands the pool of qualified applicants agencies may consider for hire.
"As President George W. Bush's principal advisor on human resources matters, OPM, under the leadership of Director Kay Coles James, will continue to lead the federal human capital initiative in helping to ensure agencies have the processes and systems to attract top talent."
Earlier this month, James commented on surveys which found high levels of patriotism among federal job applicants. "On the eve of America's Independence Day celebrations, it is inspiring to know that the ideal of serving the nation through public service remains high among those interested in the Civil Service. There is a large pool of talented and educated individuals who are eager to serve in the federal government. This is good news for departments and agencies as they streamline their hiring systems in order to fill key positions over the next decade."
Blair cited surveys which show the high quality of federal recruits and their desire to engage in public service.
"The New York City recruitment fair alone had more than 15,000 attendees, with 44 agencies and departments represented. Most attendees had college or advanced degrees," said Blair. "The survey proves that interest in federal jobs is high, that federal jobs have appeal, and that this appeal has increased over the past few years."
Recently, James tasked OPM with identifying and developing a strategy to continue OPM's leadership role in federal hiring.
"As an agency and government, we are constantly growing, learning, improving and identifying new activities for OPM to undertake," said James. "Based on this analysis, we have already initiated a sequence of actions to make key materials for training HR professionals available through our GoLearn web site."
James also has directed OPM to take further steps in improving federal hiring. "In the short term, we will look at ways to develop future human capital leadership in government through the recruitment and training of high potential candidates," said James. "We also intend to build on our work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development by extending our efforts at re-engineering agency-specific hiring practices at other departments and agencies.
James said that OPM has long-term plans to develop competency models for the HR field and manage a "community of practice." OPM could then share with all agencies the general nature of the competencies developed and utilize this information in its web-based GoLearn.
At the hearing, Blair provided the subcommittee with a list of agencies and departments that have received Direct Hire Authority. Agencies utilize this authority to fill shortage positions or meet critical hiring needs. Blair told the subcommittee that OPM is following congressional intent in delegating this authority on a limited basis. "We believe Congress imposed these restrictions, in part, because Veterans' Preference is not applied under Direct Hire Authority."
This past year, Director James granted agency-specific Direct Hire Authority to six agencies. This week, Director James granted Direct Hire Authority to the Department of Defense for auditing positions in the Office of the Inspector General.
Since the last subcommittee hearing on federal hiring on June 7, OPM has conducted a continuous effort to educate the federal HR field and agency Chief Human Capital Officers on the availability of hiring flexibilities. These efforts included two training symposiums for agency HR staff and CHCOs, a press briefing on the results of two professional surveys relating to recent recruitment fairs, a training academy for agency CHCOs, a recruitment fair in Chicago, and a Best Practices Showcase featuring NASA's strategic human capital initiatives as a way of exposing other agency personnel to successful HR practices.
These efforts represent a culmination of three year's work by OPM to improve federal hiring practices. Blair told the subcommittee that this work includes the 45-day hiring model, which James called for to expedite job offers to qualified candidates and further compete with the private sector.
"This represents a realistic model for federal hiring and does not present an unattainable goal for agencies to meet," said Blair. He told the subcommittee that a large number of agencies report they are already meeting a 45-day standard for some portion of their hiring process and that most other agencies report that they will be able to meet this proposed model.
Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.