What to Do during the Federal Hiring Freeze

Published with Permission by:
Lint, James R., “What to Do during the Federal Hiring Freeze”, In Cyber Defense, 7 Feb. 2017, Web,

Commentary by James Lint
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University
Senior Editor for
 In Cyber Defense and Contributor, In Homeland Security

Now that President Trump has instituted a 90-day federal hiring freeze, it’s time to study the government hiring situation and improve your application. It’s time to reassess your strategy for getting a federal job and to determine if you are serious about working for the federal government.

When the hiring freeze is lifted, it’s likely that new legislation will restrict managers to hiring just one person for every two vacancies in their office. This will increase the competition and make it more difficult to get hired for a federal job.

The Manager’s View of a Hiring Freeze

It’s smart to look at federal job vacancies from a hiring manager’s point of view. After the freeze ends, I know from personal experience (as a hiring manager during the freeze of 2012-13), that managers will be eager to hire. They need employees to fulfill their agency’s mission.

Until a vacancy is filled, current employees must share the work of the vacant position. Currently, it takes at least six months from the time a hiring process begins to actually bringing a new hire onboard.

When the new employee arrives and assumes his duties, the existing staff is better able to focus on their own jobs. Overall efficiency improves and work is completed in less time than during the freeze.

It is important to remember that the hiring freeze is only for 90 days. Specific exemptions permit some federal agencies to continue to hire during the freeze.

Exceptions to the Federal Hiring Freeze

Experienced federal professionals know that every rule and regulation has exceptions. Paragraph 3 of the January 31 Memorandum: Federal Civilian Hiring Freeze Guidance from the White House lists the following hiring exceptions:

3g. Federal civilian personnel hires are made by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

3h. Appointments made under the Pathways Internship and Presidential Management Fellows programs (this does not include the Recent Graduates program). Agencies should ensure that such hires understand the provisional nature of these appointments and that conversion [to full-time employment] is not guaranteed.

3i. Conversions in the ordinary course to the competitive service of current agency employees serving in positions with conversion authority, such as Veteran’s Recruitment Act (VRA) and Pathways programs.

3r. The head of any agency may exempt any positions that it deems necessary to: Meet national security (including foreign relations) responsibilities, or public safety responsibilities (including essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property).

Cybersecurity Field Fulfills Critical Needs and Has Many Exemptions

Many cybersecurity jobs are in intelligence organizations, so those jobs are considered essential to the protection of health and safety. (Think hospital records at military facilities and the Department of Veterans Affairs.) Similarly, cyber defense jobs support foreign affairs organizations and are deemed essential to meeting national security responsibilities.

Opportunities Exist in Cybersecurity Despite Hiring Freeze

Despite President Trump’s executive order, there are still opportunities available for cyber defenders. Cyber organizations are hiring employees fresh out of college as well as service veterans.

So don’t be discouraged; the future of the federal civil service is not as bleak as media sources describe. In fact, some job seekers might think it’s more difficult now to obtain a federal job, so there could be fewer applicants and thus less competition.

Be persistent. Keep focused on your career goals and your readiness to meet the challenges of the job you seek.

About the Author

 James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. James has been involved in cyberespionage events from just after the turn of the century in South Korea supporting 1st Signal Brigade to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis as the first government cyber intelligence analyst. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, government contracting and civil service.

Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded its 43rd scholarship for national security students and professionals. James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. He has also served in the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office after his active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and also served 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba in addition to numerous CONUS locations. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” a book in 2016, “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea,” and a book in 2017, “Secrets to Getting a Federal Government Job.