2017 in review: Hiring freeze, government reorg, sexual harassment and more

In Episode 3 of Bureauchat, Federal News Radio reporters Meredith Somers and Nicole Ogrysko each count down their top three stories of the year. What made the cut? Here’s a hint: brrrrrrrr, it’s freezing!

2017 marked a turning point for government spending in the form of the DATA Act rollout. Now everyone can head to USASpending and check out what federal agencies are spending their money on. Stakeholders are excited for what they say is the start to a whole new form of government accountability.

Meanwhile in world of personnel security clearances, a familiar argument evolved into an ugly turf war. With a backlog of 695,000 pending clearances at the Office of Personnel Management’s National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), the Defense Department made the case that it should resume responsibility for processing its own security clearances.

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The debate played out with little public discussion, and Congress quietly gave the Pentagon orders to begin a three-year phased implementation plan. The transfer could leave major impacts on the security clearance backlog and OPM. Responsibility for this work has changed multiple times now, and the results haven’t always been pretty.

By the end of the year, everyone was talking about sexual harassment and misconduct – in Hollywood, at work, and in the government. The National Park Service released the results of a survey looking at sexual harassment among its employees, while Congress agreed to mandated training for all staffers and lawmakers.

It’s been a year of change for many at the Interior Department, where 33 senior executives received reassignment orders from DOI leadership, without much notice or discussion. Reassignments are part of the game for the Senior Executive Service, but Interior SES members said the moves left them feeling demoralized and undervalued, and they felt left in the dark as Interior leaders developed reorganization plans and major changes to the department’s structure.

The Environmental Protection Agency also had one heck of a year. It was one of the first agencies on the Trump administration’s fiscal chopping block, and it was also targeted for early retirements and buyouts.

And on his first full work day in office, President Donald Trump authorized a temporary hiring federal freeze, and since then, it’s been off to the races.

The freeze ended less than 90 days later, but it set the tone and the approach the administration would take with the federal workforce for the rest of the year. When the administration lifted the mandate, agencies were left to interpret a new executive order from the president: one that prompted agencies to begin reorganizing government and restructuring the federal workforce.

That EO will keep agencies — and us — quite busy in 2018.

Read Meredith’s top 3 stories of 2017: 

  1. EPA’s early retirement/buyout justifications reveal how agency is reorganizing
  2. NPS answering ‘wake-up call’ to address sexual harassment, employee misconduct
  3. DATA Act’s ‘gentle transition’ offers agencies option to dive in, dip toe in data

Read Nicole’s top 3 stories of 2017: 

  1. Hiring freeze result of Trump team’s review of federal agencies
  2. Interior senior executives left in the dark, amid reorg, reassignments
  3. Why OPM is warning against DoD reclaiming the security clearance process