Agencies granted special hiring authority for digital services

Agencies looking to build digital services squads can now skirt some of the typical federal requirements in hiring technologists for those teams.

Agencies building digital services squads can now skirt some of the typical federal requirements in hiring technologists for those teams.

The Office of Personnel Management has authorized the use of excepted-service appointments for the hiring of digital services staff in support of the President’s Management Agenda’s Smarter IT Delivery Initiative. The special authority allows the hiring of GS-11 through GS-15 level employees to temporarily fill technical positions for a year, with the option to extend them in one year increments.

“The President declared the need for a Smarter IT Delivery Initiative to transform the way Government builds and buys IT and fundamentally improve the way that the Government delivers technology services to the public,” OPM Director Katherine Archuleta wrote in a memo. “To meet this goal, agencies working on the Smarter IT Delivery Initiative are developing digital services teams using funding from the 2016 budget. These teams will need staff with skills in modern digital product design, software engineering, product management, creating and maintaining flexible infrastructure, and designing and implementing agile governance structures.”

The excepted-service appointments will make it so agencies will not have to give public notice in filling the positions, though OPM recommends agencies do such. According to the memo, however, agencies must follow the guidelines of veterans’ preference.


This authority is meant specifically to fill positions on projects related to the Smarter IT Delivery Initiative section in President Barack Obama’s proposed 2016 budget, which called for the creation of digital services teams in all large departments and agencies. On Archuleta’s memo, she included a list of qualifying high-impact IT projects, like the Commerce Department’s Census 2020, The Department of Health and Human Services’, and the General Services Administration’s Integrated Award Environment. There’s also a lengthy list of agency transactional services for which IT workers can be hired under this authority.

“These technical positions would involve in-depth knowledge of and experience in creating modern digital services, gap analysis expertise in understanding where shortfalls exist in capacity to design, develop, deploy, and operate customer-facing services, specialized knowledge in digital service consolidation and migration, cloud service utilization, and business process standardization to support a wide variety of mission requirements,” Archuleta wrote.

Digital services employees hired under the authority cannot extend their appointment beyond Sept. 30, 2017, according to the memo.

Prior to this, GSA’s 18F had been using a similar approach under OPM’s Schedule A authority to help other agencies reduce what can otherwise be a months-long, drawn out federal hiring process to about six weeks.

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