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Obama to shut down Federal Career Intern Program

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 26, 2010; 12:00 AM

President Obama plans to issue an executive order, perhaps as early as this week, ending a federal internship program that critics say circumvents proper hiring practices.

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Since it began in 2001, the Federal Career Intern Program has been used to hire more than 100,000 people - few of them interns as traditionally understood and many of them border and customs officers who later became permanent-status federal employees.

The program has drawn fire from federal employee unions and from the government board that oversees federal hiring practices, which ruled in November that the program undermined the rights of veterans, in particular, who were seeking federal work.

According to a draft copy of the executive order, which The Washington Post obtained from a person involved with the review process, the program will be terminated in March and be replaced with a program clearly designed to provide short-term federal work opportunities for recent graduates of schools of all kinds.

"This program has led to abuses in hiring," said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal labor union. He also said it had created "a feeling of hostility in the workforce to the intern program."

Because it had been used to skirt regular hiring procedures, he said Saturday, federal workers will be pleased to see it end and be replaced by a program targeted specifically to young people and graduating students.

The FCIP was created by President Bill Clinton in 2000 with the stated goal of attracting "exceptional men and women to the Federal workforce" and preparing them "for careers in analyzing and implementing public programs."

About 400 people were hired under the streamlined rules of the program in 2001, but that number quickly grew - to 6,600 in 2004 and more than 26,700 in 2009. Agencies were able to hire much faster than usual under the program because they did not have to advertise open positions.

The Office of Personnel and Management, which oversees the program, had no comment on the president's plans.

Although federal worker unions have criticized and challenged the program, managers have often liked it for the hiring flexibility and speed it allows.

The Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that studies the federal workforce, also has been supportive of the FCIP.

"We believe the growth is related to a very simple reason overall: It works well as a hiring authority for those agencies that use it," John Palguta, a Partnership vice president, said at a public OPM meeting in June. (The Partnership and The Post have a content-sharing relationship.)


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