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News Release

Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Contact: Brenda Bertrand
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Director James Approves Request for Critical Hiring Authority from Department of Health and Human Services

Flexibility of Direct-Hire Authority a Major Piece in Efforts to Fix the Federal Hiring Process

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Kay Coles James has approved a request for direct-hire authority from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This authority provides HHS a hiring flexibility to quickly staff certain critical positions in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) responsible for implementing the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA).

Dr. Ed Sontag, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management Department of Health and Human Services and Chief Human Capital Officer said, "As the CMS department gears up to implement the Medicaid changes, we appreciate the quick review and approval for direct-hire authority from OPM. This will be of tremendous assistance and allow CMS to staff critical positions quickly."

The MMA, which was signed by President George W. Bush on December 8, 2003, gives Medicare beneficiaries access to prescription drug coverage and the buying power to reduce the prices they pay for drugs. Lower income beneficiaries receive enhanced coverage under the MMA while state governments gain savings.

To implement the MMA, CMS will need to fill approximately 250 positions in Fiscal Year 2004 and another 250 in Fiscal Year 2005.

"CMS's request for direct-hire authority is a perfect example of an agency addressing their human capital needs and utilizing current flexibilities to address a critical need situation," James said. "Flexibilities such as direct-hire authority play an important role in an overall strategy to fix the federal hiring process."

OPM will review the use of the direct-hire authority to ensure it is being used properly.

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OPM leads and serves the Federal Government in enterprise human resources management by delivering policies and services to achieve a trusted, effective civilian workforce. By Empowering Excellence in Government through Great People, we provide leadership and support to U.S. agencies on issues including human resources policy and oversight, background investigations, federal employee benefits, retirement services, guidance on labor-management relations, and programs to improve workforce performance. For more information, visit or follow OPM on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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