02.10.17

Kilmer, Schatz, Hirono Lead Call on Navy to Clarify Exemption from Federal Hiring Freeze for Navy Shipyard Workers

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) led a call on the Navy to clarify the exemption from President Trump’s federal hiring freeze for shipyard workers. Recently, the Defense Department announced that employees of Navy public shipyards and other employees that directly support the shipyards would be exempt. But the process for requesting exemptions at the shipyards would still leave positions open for weeks, if not longer. 

In their letter the members urged the Navy to allow workers to be hired and promoted as soon as openings become available, as would have happened before the freeze.

“In our opinion, it would be easier, less expensive, and further in-line with the intent of the Department of Defense’s exemption authority to establish an automatic exemption process that clears a class of positions based on occupation code and command,” the members wrote in the letter sent today. “Furthermore, pushing the decision down one or more levels would be more responsive to the needs of Combatant Commanders while providing the due diligence required to ensure that all hiring and promotion actions are executed appropriately. Given these concerns, we urge you to retract the policy and issue guidance that offers immediate exemption authority for those federal civilians working at the public shipyards and depots that keep our ships and submarines ready.”

The hiring freeze is already impacting Navy shipyards despite the Department of Defense providing an exemption for certain workers. The freeze continues to prevent shipyards across the country from hiring personnel who directly impact the readiness of the fleet such as engineers, acquisition workforce personnel, trade mechanics, radiological and emergency personnel, regulatory compliance and other support personnel that are necessary to maintaining the Navy’s surface and submarine fleets.

The members previously introduced bicameral legislation that would have exempted shipyard employees.

The text of the letter follows.

The Honorable Sean Stackley

Acting Secretary of the Navy

The Pentagon. Room 4E686

Washington, D.C. 20350-1000

Dear Secretary Stackley,

Thank you for your continued service to the Navy and our nation. Your dedication to the Navy, the men and women who serve in it, and those who support their readiness is greatly appreciated. Given that interest, we wish to extend our support for the Department of Defense’s recent exclusion of shipyards and depot employees from the hiring freeze. However, as that exception is being implemented, we are concerned with the Navy’s guidance and the impact of that guidance on reasonably filling those exempt positions. 

On January 23, 2017, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum that froze the hiring and promotion of civilian employees. Many of us were concerned that this policy would erode the readiness of the Navy and cost taxpayers. With that in mind, we were relieved that the February 1, 2017, implementation guidance issued by the Department of Defense had provided an exception for “Positions in shipyards and depots in which positions incumbents perform direct management of inventory and direct maintenance of equipment.”

On February 1, 2017, the Navy published a five step and four-tiered process for requesting exemptions from the hiring freeze. Instead of establishing an efficient process for exempting positions, it established one that will delay hiring actions several weeks if not longer. During that time, shipyards and depots will most likely lose quality candidates, realize delays in maintenance, and possibly fail to meet the requirements of the fleet. Failure to address this will not just be felt in the present, but long into the future.

In our opinion, it would be easier, less expensive, and further in-line with the intent of the Department of Defense’s exemption authority to establish an automatic exemption process that clears a class of positions based on occupation code and command. Furthermore, pushing the decision down one or more levels would be more responsive to the needs of Combatant Commanders while providing the due diligence required to ensure that all hiring and promotion actions are executed appropriately. 

Given these concerns, we urge you to retract the policy and issue guidance that offers immediate exemption authority for those federal civilians working at the public shipyards and depots that keep our ships and submarines ready.

As advocates of the Navy we stand ready to work with you and support your efforts to meet this interest. Thank you for your service and for stepping up in your current capacity.

Sincerely,      

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