The Defense Department announced a set of exemptions to the hiring freeze, which will allow hiring to resume across a broad category of federal jobs. A provision in President Trump’s executive order allows agencies to exempt positions they deem critical to national security and public safety.
Robert Work, the Deputy Defense Secretary, listed 16 functions immune from the freeze and said, “I will follow closely any actions taken with respect to implementations of the hiring freeze and will hold these officials accountable for the exemptions they grant.” He created five different categories of potential exemption: positions necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities, those determined additionally necessary by the officials, exemptions required by law, exemptions that don’t require approval, and those that require advanced coordination with department leadership.
An anonymous Sr. Defense official said, “Designated officials will really have to look at the functions of the position, the duties, and make sure that they are absolutely necessary to meet our national security or public safety responsibilities.”
In addition to the specific positions exempted, DOD organizations will be allowed to grant additional exceptions if they can make the case that they have critical national security hiring needs that haven’t been addressed. If they choose to use that authority, they’ll have to submit reports justifying each position they fill.
The following is the full list of exemptions.
- Positions directly supporting the execution of contingency missions and operations, scheduled military operations and deployments, and security cooperation exercises or training.
- Positions required for cybersecurity and cyberspace operations or planning.
- Jobs required for space operations or planning.
- Positions required for execution of the cyber and intelligence lifecycle operations, planning, or support thereof.
- To the extent necessary to maintain the capability to ensure a medically ready force, positions directly providing inpatient care in DOD Medical Treatment Facilities and providing acute and emergency outpatient care in DOD medical and dental facilities. Additionally, positions involving communicable disease prevention and similar public activities.
- First responder firefighter and law enforcement positions.
- Positions necessary to carry out or enforce treaties and other international obligations.
- Positions providing operational support to the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense or Chairman, or Joint Chiefs of Staff.
- Jobs providing child care to the children of military personnel.
- Positions at the installment level providing direct support to the prevention of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and suicide, and providing direct support to those affected.
- Positions required for nuclear reactor and nuclear weapon safety and security and nuclear command, control, and communications. Additionally, positions required for biological select agent safety and security.
- Positions performing mortuary activities and other directly related services necessary to properly care for the fallen and their families.
- Positions required to be filled by a foreign national employee.
- Jobs in shipyards and depots in which incumbents perform direct management of inventory and direct maintenance of equipment.
- Positions funded by foreign military sales.
- Civilian mariners in Military Sealift command.
In general, the freeze applies to all hiring regardless of their funding source. Overall, the Pentagon hopes to use the hiring freeze to prioritize positions for national security importance. They also hope to develop a strategy for reducing the size of the federal workforce beyond merely freezing hiring.
Leadership may approve the exemptions on an individual or group basis. Temporary and term employees may have their appointment extended to the maximum allowable time limit.
Among the exemptions required by law are employees exercising their return rights following an overseas or active duty deployment. Defense services and activities can hire seasonal and short-term employees for seasonal work. However, they must coordinate with the undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness. Voluntary Sr. Executive Service transfers and other exchange programs also fall into this category.
The department won’t implement anything that is in conflict with a Collective Bargaining Agreement.