The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has announced a government-wide freeze on Senior Executive Service (SES) hires effective December 7, 2016.
Acting OPM Director Beth Colbert said in a memo issued last week that the freeze will “ensure the incoming head of the agency will have the full opportunity to exercise his or her prerogative to make or approve executive resources decisions.”
Colbert pointed out that this is normal procedure during transition to a new administration when the president requests letters of resignation form all non-term presidential appointees.
President Obama has asked all non-termed presidential appointees to submit a resignation letter by December 7, 2016. Exceptions to this request are U.S. Marshals; U.S. Attorneys; Inspectors General; Termed appointees; Appointees of independent and regulatory agencies that are led by termed appointees; and Appointees serving on part-time boards and commissions.
During the freeze (ending on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017) OPM will not accept agency submissions of new SES Qualifications Review Board (QRB) cases. In addition, OPM will suspend the 90-day deadline for agency submissions of QRB cases. However, OPM will continue to process QRB cases that have been submitted before the effective date of the freeze. Agencies will be allowed to continue to conduct SES staffing actions up to the point submission to the QRB.
OPM identified some exceptions to the freeze on SES hiring. The freeze does not apply to agencies excepted from the president’s resignation letter request. The freeze also does not apply to submission of “Criterion B” cases covering those individuals who have “successfully completed an OPM-approved SES Candidate Development Program (CDP) and whose executive qualifications are then transmitted to OPM for QRB review and certification for general non-competitive SES appointment eligibility.”
OPM will consider exceptions to the freeze if necessary to “ensure the continuity of agency operations” during the transition to the new administration. The exception consideration will be based upon “critical need” in the agency. OPM will consider exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
Agencies will be able to request resumption of QRB processing of their SES cases when a new agency head is appointed.