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Federal Eye
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 05/18/2011

One year of federal hiring reforms: Is it any better?


The Obama administration is hoping to make the federal hiring process easier. (Justin Sullivan - Getty Images)
It’s been about a year since the Obama administration announced plans to revamp the federal hiring process and shorten the length of time it takes federal agencies to post a new job, interview applicants and hire a new employee.

Eye Opener

Obama, eager to hire a new generation of recruits and make government “cool again,” last May ordered federal agencies to complete the process in 80 days — down considerably from what used to take as long as 200 days at some offices.

To mark the anniversary, John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management and the man tasked by President Obama with pushing most of the reforms, is scheduled to recap a year’s worth of work Wednesday at the National Press Club.

Although his aides wouldn’t share details of the speech, expect Berry to note that agencies cut the average length of time to hire new workers to 105 days in 2010, down from 122 days in 2009. By the end of June all agencies will have to submit quarterly reports on how well they’re doing to meet the 80-day goal.

As part of the hiring reforms, Obama also ordered agencies to publish simply-worded job descriptions and to end the use of lengthy “KSAs,” or essays that describe an applicant’s knowledge, skills and abilities.

But several agencies failed to meet Obama’s initial six-month goal, with just the departments of Commerce, Defense and Veterans Affairs and NASA in good shape last fall, according to OPM. The administration hasn’t provided a progress report since, and though it initially said reforms would happen quickly, Berry later cautioned that full hiring reform would take years to complete.

Ironically, the administration is marking the first year of hiring reforms at a time when two of its strongest recruiting incentives — the federal pension system and the stability of federal work — are at risk.

The pension system enjoyed by millions of federal workers is emerging as a key area of agreement in negotiations between Vice President Biden and congressional leaders looking to rein in the national deficit. Long-time federal employees, their union leaders and other observers are warning that the proposal may make federal jobs less attractive and compel eligible workers to retire earlier than planned.

And federal employees across the government — including a National Zoo worker who confronted Obama last week in a nationally-televised town hall meeting — are losing jobs they thought were secure as agencies begin tightening their belts. Thousands more might lose their jobs in the coming years if the White House and congressional Republicans agree to steeper spending cuts.

Have you or someone you know tried applying for a federal job in the last year? Is the process any better than it used to be? We want to know! Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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By  |  06:00 AM ET, 05/18/2011

Categories:  Eye Opener, Workplace Issues, Administration

 
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