Young professionals interested in federal employment may want to take a look at the Federal Career Intern Program, which was designed to make it easier for agencies to recruit with less red tape.

The Office of Personnel Management published its "final rule" for the program Aug. 2 in the Federal Register. In its notice, OPM said the program will help agencies recruit people "who have a variety of experiences, academic disciplines, and competencies necessary for the effective analysis and execution of public programs."

The intern program is relatively new. It was created in 2000 through a presidential order and has operated under an interim rule. Although it is called an intern program, applicants need not be students to apply.

The program began in 2001, when 413 applicants were accepted. By 2002, the program hired 2,851 interns, and by 2004, it was up to 6,619 participants.

The Social Security Administration and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security are among the agencies that use the program, OPM data show. Homeland Security hired 1,330 interns in 2004, for example.

The intern program allows agencies to bring people into jobs that are viewed as trainee positions at various starting salaries, such as $28,600, $35,000 and $43,000 in the Washington area.

Most of the jobs are for two years, and participants who meet program goals usually get a chance to convert to a full-time job in the civil service without having to go through the usual competitive hiring process.

In its final regulation, OPM points out that the intern program provides a less cumbersome option for hiring. It allows agencies, for instance, to offer internships at job fairs and other recruitment venues without having to post the jobs first on a Web site.

The program is administered by each agency and not at OPM. Most agencies have posted material about their internships on their Internet sites.

In addition to the career intern program, the government sponsors programs that place students in temporary jobs, and some of those can lead to full-time employment. Information about those programs can be found at www.studentjobs.gov.

Changing Places

A top Pentagon official who has testified on Capitol Hill in support of Bush administration plans to overhaul civil service pay at the Defense Department is leaving to become staff director for a Senate committee that will help oversee the pay changes.

Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, joins the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), at month's end. Abell had worked on the committee's staff from 1993 to 2001.

As part of his portfolio, Abell met with labor leaders who oppose plans for the new National Security Personnel System. When he joins the committee, Abell will be working for a chairman who represents thousands of Defense employees and is sensitive to their concerns.

Abell's departure from the Pentagon, recently reported by Al Kamen of The Post, was confirmed yesterday by a Defense spokeswoman.

Pentagon officials hope to publish a final regulation within the next few weeks and begin the launch of the NSPS in October or November. Gordon England, acting deputy defense secretary, and Mary E. Lacey, NSPS program executive, are in charge of the NSPS launch.

Abell's return to the Hill will leave the Pentagon with vacancies in two key policy jobs. The post of deputy undersecretary of defense for civilian personnel policy has been vacant since December, when Ginger Groeber retired. The position has been filled on an interim basis by Defense officials, with Marilee Fitzgerald currently serving as the acting deputy undersecretary for civilian policy.

Diary Live Today

Please join me for a discussion of federal employee and retiree issues at noon today on Federal Diary Live at www.washingtonpost.com.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com