Air Force exempted 54,000 civilians from hiring freeze

The Air Force is finding a way to hire the people it needs despite the federal hiring freeze put into place Jan. 23.

As of March 28, 54,000 civilian exemptions have been made for civilian hires in the Air Force.

The “exemptions cover vacancies and anticipated vacancies, which range in type from childcare to cyber to depot maintenance,” Air Force Spokesman Maj. Bryan Lewis said in a statement to Federal News Radio. “Our civilian force is absolutely critical to our readiness and mission.”

Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, characterized the hiring freeze as a “challenge,” during an interview with Federal News Radio.

“Sequestration was devastating to the civilian workforce. It literally took us three years to get on a healthy footing. The good news is we were on a healthy footing before going into this hiring freeze and we dug ourselves out. We are not totally, fully manned, but we’re close,” Grosso said.

When the hiring freeze started there were about 8,500 vacancies across the Air Force and the service was taking on about 1,300 each month.

“We have [an exemption process], that process is working. It is a position by position exemption that the Secretary of the Air Force can approve,” Grosso said.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright told the House Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee during a March 8 hearing that the Air Force was feeling a big impact from the freeze in childcare.

“Not only do you have an employment issue, but a childcare issue tacked on top of it, this could be really bad for us,” he said.

Other military services have felt impacts from the hiring freeze as well.

“To this day our acting secretary has already made 3,600 exceptions [to the hiring freeze] just for CDCs alone and over 5,500 exceptions to hire civilians … to fill critical roles on our installations. We are working through each one of them. It is a by-name exception for each one of those,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Daily said.

That means the military service chief must sign off on each individual before he or she can be hired. Daily said the delay for the hiring has been shortened from days to hours.

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano said the Navy was already having trouble meeting some mission requirements due to budget issues; adding the hiring freeze only conflates the problem. By not hiring civilians, more pressure is put on military workers to finish a job.

“There becomes a change in the workload associated with the military counterparts because we still have to be successful in meeting those mission requirements,” Giordano said.

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