Don't get me wrong, I am for hiring the best applicants available, however I am also going to enforce the Veteran Preference Laws vigorously.
I would be very leery about citing FY12 data. FY 12 still had the influences of the FCIP, STEP, and SCEP programs There were several Agencies that used these programs to account for over 50% of their hiring in FY12), and was before the VA was directed by the MSPB to use normal Veterans Preference for their allied health positions (Hybrid Title 38 positions). For the Hybrid positions Veterans Preference has been used as a tie breaker if all things were equal, but MSPB stated no, you will use absolute traditional Veterans Preference. They had been issuing unranked lists which would allow management to pick anyone on the list they wanted, bur that change in January 2013. Also, the government "Research Labs" (i.e. Army. Air Force, DOD, Navy Research Facilities, etc.) are under demonstration projects and authorized direct hire authority (non competitive appointments). I also know many agencies made wild dashes to get as many FCIPS, STEPS, and SCEPS hired as the could before the programs y went defunct and the Pathways Program came out. I also question the 139k new employees and how they came up with that. I have discovered that many Agencies are counting the employees coming to them from other agencies as new appointments. Likewise, they also are counting "conversion to a new appointment" as a new appointments. I have learned to ask questions before I start basing facts on what an article or release might say. What I am waiting for is the 2013 and 2014 data to come out and see how the changes are reflected. Reminds me of this one Secretary announcing in a speech that he wanted to hire 45k Veterans that year. I was thinking, Mr. Secretary, has anyone told you your agency has been under a hiring freeze for 5 months, and projected to be under one for quite a few more...this was during the time when the Agencies had to get their end strength down to comply with sequestration levels, which they couldn't and the furloughs came out as the only way to balance the payroll books).
Now, on the finding high caliber applicants, the best technique I have experienced was to place adds in the professional journals concurrently with the announcement. I was able to get very high quality scientists (top 5% in the world type applicants), but they were the equivalent of GS 15s or higher, which is a whole different class of recruiting. On the entry level (GS 5 and GS7) there was no need to advertise on other than USAJOBS, because quality applicants pools could be obtained without it. And, the sad part is that some Agencies do very good at hiring Vets, and others don't. I know of an Agency in the greater DC area that only hired 2 Veterans the entire year. Yes, only 2! But that was because they outsourced to contractors all the entry level positions that would normally be filled by Vets (and then pushed the FCIP, SCEP, and STEP, to convert them to government positions using non-competitive appointments to get around Veterans Preference...that was in 2012). So, the 2013 and 2014 data should be very interesting to see, now that the loop holes have been closed.