OPM Announces New Direct Hiring Authority for Certain Positions

OPM announced new direct hiring authority for certain job positions with critical shortages of candidates.

The Office of Personnel Management announced today that it is adding new direct hiring authority for certain job positions which have a critical need for additional talent.

The announcement was from a memo issued by acting director Margaret Weichert to all federal agency heads. It is part of OPM’s work in implementing the President’s Management Agenda issued earlier this year.

The direct hiring authority will apply to Scientific, Technical, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) as well as Cybersecurity and Related positions.

The memo notes that agencies may appoint individuals into the occupations identified in the lists of positions at the specified grade levels (or equivalent) nationwide. Individuals may be appointed to competitive service career, career-conditional, term, or temporary positions, as appropriate.

A copy of the memo is included below.

About the President’s Management Agenda

The President’s Management Agenda lays out a plan for modernizing the federal government, particularly with respect to human resources.

Some of its proposals likely to be most controversial among federal employees are a suggested pay freeze for 2019 and reforms to pay and benefits. However, it also advocates for bipartisan management strategies across branches of government, encourages use of technology, and says that reforms should be driven by the government’s overall mission.

Announcing Government-wide Direct Hire Appointing Authorities

October 11, 2018


Subject: Announcing Government-wide Direct Hire Appointing Authorities

The President’s Management Agenda (PMA) sets forth a long-term vision for effective government on behalf of the American people.  It identifies “workforce for the 21st century” as a key driver of transformation, with particular emphasis on implementing a variety of improved workforce strategies, including enabling simple and strategic hiring to attract top talent.  As the broader actions of the PMA progress, we are also looking at maximizing the use of currently available tools and authorities to help address some of our most pressing hiring needs.

I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is authorizing new direct hire appointing authorities for a variety of Scientific, Technical, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) positions, as well as Cybersecurity and related positions where we have identified severe shortages of candidates and/or critical hiring needs*.

Covered Positions – Scientific, Technical, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM)

Position Title Occupational Series Grade Levels
Economist GS-0110 11-15
Biological Science GS-0401 11-15
Fishery Biologist GS-0482 11-15
General Engineer GS-0801 11-15
Civil Engineer GS-0810 11-15
Physical Sciences GS-1301, 1306, 1310, 1320 only 11-15
Actuary GS-1510 11-15
Mathematics GS-1520 11-15
Mathematical Statistician and Statistician GS-1529, 1530 11-15
Acquisitions GS-1102 11-15


Covered Positions – Cybersecurity and Related

Position Title Grade Levels
Computer Engineers (Cybersecurity) 12-15
Computer Scientists (Cybersecurity) 12-15
Electronics Engineers (Cybersecurity) 12-15
IT Cybersecurity Specialist** 12-15

**These positions must require IT knowledge andIT competencies, the work must be coded to include cybersecurity functions as supported by the job codes in the Guide to Data Standards and the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework, 2017, and the cybersecurity work must be performed the majority of the time.  

Using these Direct-Hire Authorities

Effective immediately agencies may appoint individuals into the occupations identified above at the specified grade levels (or equivalent) nationwide.  Individuals may be appointed to competitive service career, career-conditional, term, or temporary positions, as appropriate, without regard to provisions of 5 U.S.C. 3309-3318 or 5 CFR part 211 and part 337, subpart A.  These appointments are subject to public notice requirements in 5 U.S.C. 3327 and 3330 and 5 CFR 330, as well as procedures in 5 CFR part 330 pertaining to candidates’ eligible for priority selection, and requirements in 5 CFR 332.402.  Agencies must comply with all relevant laws to the extent that the agency or component is not exempted from such laws pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 3304(a)(3).

In accordance with 5 CFR 337.206(c), OPM may request information from agencies on their use of these direct hire authorities.  OPM will periodically assess agency use of these authorities as well as the continued need for them, and may modify or terminate them as appropriate.

Agencies are required to request an applicable pre-employment background investigation at the appropriate tier to establish whether candidates are suitable for Federal employment, may be credentialed in accordance with Government-wide credentialing standards and can hold a position that is national security sensitive (including but not limited to those requiring eligibility for access to classified information) at the appropriate level (if required for the particular position).

Agencies must identify and use proper assessment tools for the positions being filled with these direct hire authorities to determine who is qualified for the covered positions.  Agencies should not conduct additional rating to determine relative degrees of qualifications when using this authority.  Agencies should assess applicants in the order in which the applications were received, and select any qualified applicant in an order that approximates order of receipt.  Qualified candidates with veterans’ preference should be selected as they are found, just as any qualified non-preference eligible candidate would be. 

Documenting Appointments on the SF-50 “Notification of Personnel Action”

When using a Government-wide authority, an agency must enter the authority code “AYM” on the SF-50 in item 5-C and the relevant secondary authority code specified below for item 5-E of the SF-50.

STEM positions: 

Authority code to be cited:  BAH:  GW-007

This authority expires 5 years from the date of approval.

Cybersecurity and related positions:

Authority code to be cited:  BAI:  GW-008

This authority may be used indefinitely or until OPM terminates this authority.

If you have any questions, please email Darlene.Phelps@opm.gov.

cc:  Chief Human Capital Officers

*OPM has documented its findings in relation to these positions in its files and will maintain the documentation for the duration of the authorities.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.