NOAA cancels hiring freeze, lifts training ban

Friday - 1/31/2014, 1:57pm EST

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration canceled the hiring freeze and training ban it had put in place last year to offset the impact of sequestration.

In an email to NOAA staff today, Kathryn Sullivan, the acting under secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, said she had sent out a memorandum canceling the freeze that has been in effect since March 27, 2013. She also lifted the ban on non-mandatory training.

"As you all know, the President recently signed a fiscal year 2014 omnibus appropriations for the federal government," Sullivan wrote. "The omnibus gives us certainty about our spending authority for this fiscal year and restores some of the funds cut under sequestration. Sequestration in particular led federal agencies to make some very painful decisions. For us at NOAA, this included a hiring freeze, and a ban on non-mandatory training."

Friday's announcement came a week after the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO), which represents thousands of NOAA employees, reported the National Weather Service had blamed budget shortfalls as the reason it instituted a hiring freeze. But, the union pointed to NWS budget documents posted to its website showing the agency actually ended fiscal 2013 with $125 million in unspent funds.

A NWS spokesman disputed the union's claims, saying that by the end of fiscal year 2013, the agency had exhausted more than 98 percent of funding from the two accounts that support staffing positions. The unspent funding was actually carryover funding from multiyear accounts that the agency is expected to spend over the course of two or three years

Additional information about the hiring process was sent to NOAA directors and hiring managers.

Besides the hiring freeze and training ban, NOAA planned to furlough its employees for four days in 2013 due to sequestration. However, the Department of Commerce struck a deal with Congress in May that prevented the furloughs from taking place.

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