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OPM Releases Final Rule on CIO Hiring Authority

GovLoop’s CIO Conversations with agency Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have reinforced the notion that hiring and retaining IT talent continues to be a top concern for agencies, especially as they modernize. This situation has led to a final determination from the administration about the hiring authority of CIOs.

On April 3, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released the final rule to implement modifications to its regulations that focus on direct hire authority. “The intended effect of this change is to enable Chief Information Officers to hire urgently needed IT professionals more quickly,” the rule reads. This rule is the product of an executive order signed in May 2018 which mandated that OPM issue regulations around the authority of officials within an agency to decide if there is a shortage of applicants or a critical need to fill IT positions.

The final rule stated that CIOs have the authority to decide whether “a severe shortage of candidates exists at that agency for any position in the information technology management series, general schedule (GS)-2210 or equivalent.” The same applies for the determination of a critical hiring need within the IT sphere within the agency.

CIOs can appoint individuals for a period of at least one year, but not more than four years.There is a possibility of a four-year extension, if the direct hire authority is still in effect, for a total appointment time of no more than eight years and no transfers to non-IT positions during that time.

A federal agency commented that IT modernization could require more permanent staffing, especially if efforts are ongoing. OPM did not adopt the suggestion because the agency wanted to make the rule align with modern hiring patterns, especially those of the IT workforce. Instead of working in government for a lifetime, workers nowadays often move from the private to public sector and vice versa. The lower appointment time will accommodate this.

OPM published the proposed regulations in October 2018, received seven sets of proposed comments, and then published the final rule, effective May 3, 2019.

One individual commented that agencies could find recruiting IT professionals difficult if agencies cannot match the salary and benefits that the private sector offers. The commenter urged OPM to encourage agencies to use the hiring authority to their advantage. OPM declined to adopt the suggestion, stating that agency leaders should judge whether their circumstances justify applying the authority to their advantage.

OPM ultimately adopted the proposed rule without change.

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