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Chat with The Eye: Obama's federal hiring reforms; Elena Kagan's nomination

By Ed O'Keefe

Highlights of Tuesday's Post Politics Hour, which focused primarily on President Obama's new federal hiring reforms and the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan:

Federal Hiring: It's great if the President could speed up the process but there is one other factor out there that wasn't mentioned that can be a major drag on the hiring process.

The state of the budget. It isn't unusual for temporary hiring freezes to stop hiring in its tracks. Almost always because there are continuing resolutions that last months and agencies sometimes react to them by freezing hiring.

Ed O'Keefe: A very good point. We've yet to see the language of Obama's memo, but I suspect there won't be anything in there about easing the temporary freezes during a budget impasse.

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Philadelphia: How soon would Obama's proposed changes to the Federal Hiring Process take effect?? I need a job a year and a half ago...

Ed O'Keefe: Agencies must complete the transition in the next six months, but administration officials said several agencies are expected to make the switch within weeks. Best bet: Just keep track of the ones where you want to apply and see when they switch.

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Burke, VA: Good morning, Ed. Good news about efforts to significantly shorten the time it takes to hire fed. employees. Conversely, can the Obama admin. do the same to speed up the firing process for certain current fed. employees that aren't doing their jobs? Takes forever to fire dead wood.

Ed O'Keefe: Haha -- a good question. And no, federal firing isn't covered in this memo. Removing people is a much harder process, deep rooted in union agreements and civil service rules. It'll take a scandal of epic proportions before firing reforms are enacted.

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In exile in southern, va: You mentioned that the gov't will eliminate KSA's in favor of a resume system. But the fed gov't already accepts resumes. It seems like all they are doing is eliminating KSA's. Also, I assume the burden is on the applicant to contact an agency to check their status? The agency won't mail or email a person telling them their status, right? Thank you.

Ed O'Keefe: Under the new rules agencies will be required to contact an applicant up to four times during the process:

1.) When their application is received.
2.) When the applicant is deemed qualified or not.
3.) When the applicant is referred for an interview or not.
4.) When the person is selected or not.

Current applicants complain that they submit applications and never hear back from agencies. Or if they do, the offers come after they're already accepted a private sector position.

Bottom line: This process is designed to do a few things:

1.) Speed up the process and thus make it more efficient.
2.) Improve the government's overall management and performance.
3.) Make the government more competitive with private sector employers who often recruit and hire in the span of 2 months, versus the 9+ months it can take agencies to make a decision.

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Virginia: Can you identify any members of Congress who are actively supporting the revision of Federal hiring practices? This process has dragged on for far too long and is causing widespread hardship, yet in the metro DC area there seems to be a weariness about the issue. Who can voters in this area contact to get change moving faster in this front?

Ed O'Keefe: A GREAT question, and I'm glad you asked it. There are several folks involved in this process both through their committee work and geographic location:

SENATE: Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.); Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.); Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.); Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.); Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii); Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.); Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.); Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine); Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio); Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

HOUSE: Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.); Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.); Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Mass.); Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah); Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.); Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.); Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.); Rep. James Moran (D-Va.); Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

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Bethesda, MD: What in the -$&#-! does KSA stand for?

Ed O'Keefe: A @#$#ing good question! KSA stands for Knowledge, Skills, Abilities.

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Minneapolis: Hi Ed -- in all the Tuesday morning quarterbacking, not much attention has been paid to Ms. Kagan's experience as a law clerk to Thurgood Marshall. She probably knows more about how the Supreme Court works, how cases are decided, and how opinions are written than most judges. It would also seem to me that the White House would want to play up her working with one of the great liberals on the Court to temper concerns about whether she's progressive enough, etc. What do you think?

Ed O'Keefe: I think you're right and I suspect opposition researchers and journalists are culling over the cases she would have touched while working for Justice Marshall to get a sense of her thinking.

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Washington, DC: At the end of the day, the chances are almost certain that Kagan will be confirmed and the public's focus on other issues will shift to other topics. How much money gets spent on issues like this by advocacy groups?

Ed O'Keefe: I just checked with a colleague who tracks public interest groups. He said that good estimates don't really exist. Basically you can only get the groups to provide planned numbers and add them up; there's no easy central tabulation.

Remember however that groups like the Judicial Crisis Network exist primarily to deal with these debates -- so they'll draw much of their funding during this months-long process.

Read the full chat and leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 11, 2010; 12:11 PM ET
Categories:  About the Blog, Workplace Issues  
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