The Veterans' Preference Policy Can Help Rather Than Hurt Merit-Based and Diversified Recruitment in the Federal Workforce
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Officials from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the largest federal employer of veterans, recently initiated actions with the Senate Armed Services Committee. They sought to scale back the advantage veterans are afforded when being considered for federal civilian jobs. The DOD officials’ premise was that veterans’ preference has contributed to a skills deficit in the department by hiring veterans not adequately qualified to do the jobs for which they are hired. These actions re-ignited a long standing debate over the implications of the federals government’s veterans’ preference hiring policy. They also prompted a response by the Senate Armed Forces Committee to propose changing the policy. This effort examined the policy framework and how veterans’ preference is administered across the federal executive branch. It utilized a variety of data points and best practices documented by the principal agencies responsible; the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and a number of other executive agencies to compare approaches to administering veteran’s preference. This analysis yielded a proposal which drew on the Obama administration’s (Executive Order 13518) efforts to improve veterans’ hiring in the federal civilian sectors. It explores the lessons learned from efforts to improve personnel outcomes that are more merit-based and diverse while still encouraging the appointment of veterans. Noting the broad support the hiring policy enjoys by the current administration, lawmakers in both chambers of congress of congress, and the public at large, recommendations are made for policymakers to convene collaborative efforts with the requisite stakeholders to mitigate some of the unintended consequences of the policy, while retaining the benefits to veterans and the federal government.