Is Congress 'late to the game' on federal hiring reform?

Tuesday - 10/4/2011, 10:17am EDT

John Palguta, vice president for policy, Partnership for Public Service

Download mp3


By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

House and Senate lawmakers have set their sights on legislation creating hiring standards for federal agencies.

But in many cases, the legislative reforms, spearheaded by the Federal Hiring Process Improvement Act, only mirror the steps agencies have already taken.

John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service, told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris some agencies may view Congress as "coming late to the game."

But the legislative push will also help give the reforms some much-needed longevity, Palguta said.

The administration and the Office of Personnel Management have actually "made a lot of progress," he added, citing President Barack Obama's May 2010 executive order which spurred the latest round of reforms.

"But, the fact of the matter, is things can change with administrations," he added. "Presidential directives can be overturned or new ones implemented."

The new legislation would:

  • Require agencies to have strategic workforce plans, including workforce staffing projections. "That information is not routinely gathered, (and) certainly not made public" now, Palguta said.

  • Ensure job announcements are written in plain English. "One would hope they already are, but anybody who's read some job announcements knows that that's not always the case," he said.

  • Require streamlined application process.

  • Ensure hiring managers are involved in the hiring process.

  • Require timely notification for applicants. Job seekers "should not have to submit an application and have it go into the black hole," Palguta said.
While federal hiring reform has been much debated and discussed for a number of years, that talk has finally translated into action over the last year, Palguta said. In short, agencies are now taking the need for reform seriously, he said.

"And if we're actually changing the laws, that has a lasting effect to continue these improvements," he said.

But while the legislation mirrors what many agencies are already working on, not every provision is sure to charm them, he added.

For example, the law would require that vacant positions be filled within an average of 80 days, which would put pressure on human resources departments, he said.

RELATED STORIES:

Lawmakers want to codify hiring reforms

Agencies still must do more to fix hiring process

Sarbanes 'excited' to reform federal hiring