Carter administration officials appear to have found a way around the powerful House Appropriations Committee that last year banned a proposed "special emphasis" hiring program for women and minorities in government.
When it approved the military money package, the House inserted language prohibiting Defense -- which has 50 percent to the federal work force -- from taking part in the so-called Sugarman plan. That proposal (named for Jule Sugarman, deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management) would allow agencies to earmark certain jobs for women and minorities if it was determined that any bona fide minority group was "underrepresented" in an agency.
Under the plan, agencies would have given "special emphasis" to hiring qualified women and minorities outside regular civil service channels. After serving a two-year probation, the employes could be given full CS status.
Unions, and even some religious and ethnic groups (not included in the minority category) protested that the Sugarman plan smacked of race and sex quotas. Others pointed out that it could be used by politicians to hand out jobs to groups the party in power was courting for votes.
At any rate, the House committee said "no deal" for the Sugarman plan in Defense. Officials speculated that it would be buried, since it would be unfair to impose it in other agencies if Defense were excluded.
But the civil service reform act contains language that will permit much the same sort of "special emphasis" hiring. And that is now law.
The language originally proposed by Rep. William Garcia (D-N.Y.) was primarily aimed at getting more federal jobs for Hispanics. Garcia felt Uncle Sam has not done enough positive recruiting of Spanish-speaking and Spanish-surnamed people. During the negotiations on the reform bill, administration officials broadened the Garcia amendment to include other minorities. Women were added at the last minute.
Officials say the Garcia amendment is different from the Sugarman plan in that it stresses positive "recruiting" techniques, rather than special emphasis for hiring. Some people find it hard to tell the difference.
The new special recruiting program comes at a time when the government is curtailing overall recruiting actions. The Office of Personnel Management has ordered the closing of a number of federal job information centers. And it has eliminated toll-free telephone calls for job hunters.
Officials said they did it because the government already is swamped with candidates -- 99 for every job in some areas. They said it was cruel for Uncle Sam to raise people's hopes by advertising jobs for which most would never even be considered.
The new hiring plan still may run into problems in the Defense Department. The House Appropriations Committee, which has the keys to the cash, may be upset if it decides the administration pulled a semantic end run on it.