The Office of Personnel Management has issued an excepted service appointment memo to the heads of federal agencies authorizing them to hire technical staff for up to one year to work on IT modernization initiatives.

“The authority is limited to those positions whose primary functions include cloud architecture; solutions architecture; and cloud migration from legacy hardware platforms to the cloud,” wrote acting OPM director Kathleen McGettigan. “These types of positions will require unique and emerging skills such as knowledge of cloud computing technologies; knowledge of cloud management; and skill in programming language and coding using modern framework tools such Node.js.”

According to the memo, these positions are needed to directly carry out provisions of the Smarter IT Delivery Initiative, started under President Obama in 2015.

“The president declared the need for a Smarter IT Delivery Initiative to transform the way government builds and buys IT and fundamentally improve the way that the government delivers technology services to the public,” then OPM Director Katherine Archuleta wrote in a 2015 memo authorizing similar authorities.

The 2017 memo allows agencies to fill positions in the General Schedule (GS) 11 through 15 grade levels and up until September 30, 2018. The positions are to be filled on a temporary one-year basis with the option to extend the appointment for up to one additional year. According to the memo, some agencies may be able to extend the appointment past a total 24 months if they receive an extension from OPM.

Agencies are currently under pressure from multiple angles to modernize and move IT systems to the cloud. Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act scores, recently released in version 5.0, evaluate agencies on their ability to close and consolidate data centers, often by moving to the cloud, and many agencies are still receiving failing scores. The White House’s American Technology Council released a report in August 2017 emphasizing the modernization of IT through cloud deployments. And the Modernizing Government Technology Act, currently awaiting signature by the President as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, lists cloud as a priority for use of the working capital funds established by the Act.

According to the memo, agencies must still apply veteran preference when making hiring decisions and “OPM strongly encourages agencies to conduct appropriate recruiting and notice to meet agencies’ technical needs.”