Hiring freeze guidance appears to have no carve-out for indy agencies

The federal hiring freeze appears to contain no exemption for federal independent agencies generally, or exemptions for federal financial institution regulators, according to joint guidance issued by the Offices of Management and Budget (OMB) and Personnel Management (OPM) Tuesday.

In the “Memorandum: Federal Civilian Hiring Freeze Guidance” posted on Whitehouse.gov (the White House website) dated Jan. 31, Mark Sandy, acting director of OMB, and Kathleen McGettigan, acting director of OPM, note that the memo applies to all executive departments and agencies “regardless of the sources of their operational and programmatic funding and to all types of Federal civilian appointments, regardless of the length of the appointment, except as provided for below or otherwise provided in law.”

President Donald Trump issued a “presidential memorandum” Jan. 23 announcing the freeze; the OMB/OPM guidance offers additional details.

While the memo does outline 18 specific exemptions from the freeze (for example, “hiring by the U.S. Postal Service”), no mention is made of independent agencies, such as the federal financial institution regulators. However, both the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have said they would comply with the order. The credit union regulator, NCUA, said it is still reviewing the memo.

There is an exception (paragraph d in the exemption list) that includes appointment of officials to non-career positions in the Senior Executive Service (SES) or to Schedule C appointments in the Excepted Service, “or the appointment of any other officials who serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority (i.e., “appointed” positions of a political/non-career nature).”

The OPM director is allowed, however, to grant additional exemptions “for critical situations.” “Accordingly, if an agency head assesses that circumstances warrant additional exemptions to the hiring freeze other than those specified above, a request must be made in writing to the Director of OPM and signed by the agency head,” the memo states.

The guidance is effective immediately. The memo additionally notes that, within 90 days of the publication of the president’s message issued on Jan. 23, “the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Director of OPM, shall recommend a long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition. The hiring freeze will expire upon implementation of the OMB plan.”

Memorandum: Federal Civilian Hiring Freeze Guidance