Agencies may keep their authority to appoint a few short-term officials to noncareer Senior Executive Service positions for presidential transition purposes for longer than initially allowed, under guidance issued by the Office of Personnel Management March 8.

Initially, agencies only had the authority to make such appointments from Jan. 20 to Jan. 30, and such appointments were not to exceed 21 days.

Cabinet-level agencies were authorized to make up to five noncareer SES appointments and non-Cabinet agencies were authorized to make up to three.

“Since that time, several agencies have identified their need for additional time for these appointees to effect transition in agency policies and programs and to complete pre-appointment background checks,” acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan wrote in a memo to agency heads.

“Effective immediately, the noncareer SES appointment authorities issued under the memorandum of January 12, 2021, are restored to each agency solely for use in making temporary transition noncareer SES appointments. Subject to statutory limits on noncareer appointments in each agency, these authorities may be used to make noncareer SES appointments for transition purposes until April 30, 2021. An appointment made under this authority may not exceed 120 days.”

By law, no more than 25 percent of an agency’s SES positions may be filled by noncareer personnel at any given time — though some individual agencies have a higher limit — and no more than 10 percent of SES positions governmentwide may be filled by noncareer personnel.

OPM’s temporary authority also doesn’t increase an agency’s overall SES allocation, meaning that if all SES positions are already filled at an agency, they cannot also take on temporary appointments for transition purposes.

The Biden administration’s transition overall got off to a slower than usual start, as the General Services Administration head at the time refused to make transition funds available to the Biden team until nearly three weeks after Election Day.

Those days before formal transition resources were made available to the Biden team were considered “missed opportunities” by experts to prepare the incoming administration to take over the presidency.

Jessie Bur covers the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees.

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