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AF responds to hiring freeze

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force is working with the Defense Department to provide additional guidance on the federal civilian hiring freeze implemented Jan. 23.

According to the official memorandum, the hiring freeze applies to all executive departments and agencies regardless of the sources of their operational and programmatic funding, excepting military personnel. Exemptions may be permitted to meet the national security mission and public safety responsibilities or to prevent essential services from interruption. During this freeze, contracting outside the government is not permitted.

The appointment of federal employees who began work on or before Jan. 23 will not be affected and those with existing “firm” offers with effective dates on or before Feb. 22 may proceed. The Air Force Personnel Center will provide individual notices to those directly affected by this freeze. This will include those individuals who received job offers prior to Jan. 22 with a confirmed start date after Feb. 22, or in some cases, no start date.

The official memorandum calls for the implementation of a long-term plan to reduce the size of the federal civilian workforce through attrition. This plan is to be submitted within 90 days by the Office of Management and Budget in coordination with the Office of Personnel Management.

“Our civilian force is absolutely critical to our readiness and mission, we are taking every step to ensure we get this right,” said Lt. Gen. Gina M. Grosso, the deputy chief of staff for Air Force manpower, personnel and services. “Our team has been working closely with OSD to draft clear Air Force guidance on implementation and hiring freeze exemptions. As of today, we have not received the final DOD guidance memorandum, which we believe will contain some relief in critical mission areas. Once the DOD guidance is released, we will provide the field with detailed guidance on exemption processing to ensure the most swift and effective method to request needed relief.”

The civilian workforce makes up 26 percent of the total Air Force and is currently staffed at 96 percent with more than 179,000 positions filled. Given historical attrition of 1,300 personnel per month, the civilian work force could shrink by 3 percent over the next four months, leaving more than 13,000 vacant positions.

“The impact of this freeze will likely be felt over time as personnel retire and separate from the Air Force,” she continued. “Because of the vital role civilians perform, we will work to provide as much information as possible, as quickly as possible with regard to the freeze.”