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Air Force releases Civilian Hiring Freeze FAQs

(U.S. Air Force graphic)

(U.S. Air Force graphic)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

The Air Force has released a list of frequently asked questions concerning the current civilian hiring freeze. They are:

Q. What impact will the freeze have on the force?

A. The impact of this freeze will likely be felt over time as personnel retire and separate from the Air Force. However, the Secretary of Defense has delegated limited authority to the Secretary of the Air Force to exempt some positions that meet criteria to uphold National Security or Public Safety. On Feb.7, the Air Force released instructions to request exemptions for SecAF approval, and will work quickly to process to mitigate risk to readiness.

Q. Does the hiring freeze include all  civilian positions within the Air Force, even NAF positions?

A. Yes, the Presidential Memorandum places limitations on the hiring of Federal civilian employees, and applies to all executive departments and agencies, including civilian employees across the Department of the Air Force. The Presidential Memorandum does not impact military personnel. The DoD guidance states that this “impacts all Department of Defense positions, regardless of funding source.”

Q. How long is the hiring freeze in effect?

A. The President’s memorandum states that the hiring freeze is in effect until implementation of a long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government's workforce through attrition. OMB is required to submit a plan within 90 days by the OMB in coordination with OPM. There is no timeline yet on when the hiring freeze may be lifted.

Q. What’s the size of the AF civilian workforce?

A. The Air Force has 188,226 civilian positions, which make up 26 percent of the total Air Force. 94 percent of the civilian workforce is in the field, conducting operations and providing vital mission support every day.

Q. How many vacant Air Force civilian positions were there when the freeze went into effect?

A. The civilian workforce is currently manned at 96 percent with 8,447 vacancies.

Q. How will the Air Force process civilian hires in the queue?

A. Individuals impacted will be notified by the AF Personnel Center. AFPC will hold all RPAs in the queue for 60 days to allow hiring organizations an opportunity to identify positions that meet exemption criteria. Those positions that warrant exemption will be processed for SecAF approval prior to continued hiring actions.

Q. What about those who are in the Priority Placement Program, are they exempt?

A. The same guidelines for approval apply to all vacancies. Standard PPP procedures apply to all actions deemed exempt from the hiring freeze or in cases where it is determined recruitment shall continue up to the point of the job offer.

Q. Which jobs has the Air Force deemed exempt from the hiring freeze?

A. In accordance with the President’s memorandum and DoD guidance, the Air Force has identified certain functions necessary to meet the Department’s national security or public safety responsibilities that cannot afford to be impacted by the temporary hiring limitations, which are enumerated in the AF-specific guidance. However, all of these exempted positions will still require SecAF position-by-position review and approval which has not occurred yet.

Q. What DoD-delegated authorities has the Air Force been given to determine additional exemptions not specifically noted in the implementation guidance?

A. The Secretary of the Air Force may exempt any positions deemed necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.

Q. How will dual-status military technicians be impacted?

A. These positions are exempt as they are required by law (Section C of DoD Implementation Memo). However, Secretary of the Air Force position-by-position review and approval is required.

Q. The President's memorandum states that “contracting outside the Government to circumvent the intent of this memorandum shall not be permitted." Does that mean we cannot issue new contracts for work? Can I use existing contracts or contractors that have already been awarded and funded to help with my agency’s mission?

A. To ensure compliance with the President’s direction, the Secretary of Defense has directed that no funds above established organizational baselines may be used to award new contracts or increase the scope of existing contracts without first certifying that such funds are for missions that are of the highest priority and that such funds are not used to perform work resulting from the civilian hiring freeze.

Q. Can the AF use volunteers to work in positions that cannot be filled during the freeze?

A. Pursuant to Department of Defense Instruction 1100.21, “Voluntary Services in the Department of Defense,” volunteers may be used during the hiring freeze to maintain programs covered by the Instruction, including (as an exception to the restriction in the Instruction) volunteers for services previously provided by civilian employees whose positions cannot be filled due to the freeze.

Q. I received an offer for employment before 22 January, but did not have a firm start date established. Is my offer still valid?

A. An individual who has received a job offer/appointment prior to Jan. 22, 2017, and who has received documentation from the agency that specifies a confirmed start date on or before Feb. 22, 2017, should report to work on that date. However, if an individual has received a job offer/appointment prior to Jan. 22, 2017, and does not have a confirmed start date, these tentative job offers are being held in abeyance. The organization will review to determine if an exemption applies and if approved by SecAF, AFPC will contact selectees to notify them of the approval and set a start date.

Q. There may be hiring actions that are ongoing, but the positions are not exempted from the hiring freeze. Will those hiring actions continue?

A. As to positions that are determined not to be exempt, but for which hiring actions were initiated prior to Jan. 22, 2017, processing may proceed, provided that no new tentative or firm job offer is extended. For example, an organization may review resumes submitted and identify and interview qualified candidates. Or, if an individual was extended a tentative job offer before Jan. 22, 2017, required actions such as drug testing and security clearance investigation and adjudication may proceed. In all such cases, organizations will take great care to ensure and document that applicants are aware of the hiring freeze and communicate that the organization’s decision to proceed with such required actions does not confer any rights or privileges.

Q. If an employee’s term or temporary appointment expires during the hiring freeze, can it be renewed?

A. Yes, as determined by the SecAF, the term or temporary appointment of a current DoD employee may be extended to the maximum allowable time limit, consistent with the conditions and requirements of the legal authority originally used to appoint the employee. However, all extensions require SecAF position-by-position review and approval.

Q. Are there personnel actions that may be taken without an exemption but that require advance coordination within the Department? A. Yes, as specified in Section E of the DoD guidance, certain actions require advance coordination with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Instructions on how to accomplish coordination can be found in the Air Force Operational guidance.

Q. The Department recently published new procedures for reductions-in-force (RIF) and has been authorized to approve up to $40,000 for voluntary separation incentive pay (VSIP). Does all this mean that a DoD RIF is imminent following the hiring freeze?

A. No. The publication of new RIF procedures is unrelated to the President’s memorandum.

Q. What is the process for non-appropriated fund positions?

A: Since this hiring freeze applies to all civilian vacancies regardless of funding source, non-appropriated positions will require exemptions. Specific NAF instructions were provided in the AF Operational Guidance.