Pentagon issues 16-point exemption list to Trump broad federal hiring freeze

General James Mattis, U.S. secretary of defense, stands before being sworn in at the Department of Defense in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.
Olivier Douliery | Pool via Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Pentagon on Thursday outlined exemptions to the president's federal hiring freeze and indicated critical functions such as nuclear weapon safety and cybersecurity operations to shipyard maintenance are exempt.

The move follows pressure from lawmakers to loosen the government-wide hiring freeze that President Donald Trump ordered on Jan. 23. There also was legislation introduced in both the House and Senate last week to exempt shipyards and other critical military functions.

The memorandum by the Department of Defense marks its first official guidance on workforce hiring exemptions since the across-the-board federal worker hiring freeze went into effect. The department's guidance is broadly worded and applies specifically to the civilian workforce since military personnel are already exempt from the hiring freeze.

"The guidance ensures that the department will honor both the letter and spirit of the president's direction, mindful of our significant national security mission and public safety responsibilities," the DoD said in a release. "While remaining consistent with the president's objectives, the department will ensure that applicants for DoD positions are treated fairly and consistently as the policy is implemented."

Added the release, "This is an opportunity for the department to assess its most critical missions and requirements, ensuring that members of the civilian workforce are assigned and capable of executing the highest priority work. The DoD guidance will help to accomplish this objective and ensure that resources are allocated in a manner that will promote effective and efficient use of taxpayer dollars."

Under the president's hiring freeze, no vacant civilian position at the DoD may be filled and no new positions created unless they fall under the exemption areas. Overall, there are about 23,000 people working at the Pentagon, including civilian and military.

As part of Thursday's memorandum, the DoD also delegated decisions on the exemptions across various senior-level managers. It was issued by Robert Work, the deputy Defense secretary. He is a holdover from the Obama administration and reports directly to Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Work's order also makes it clear that "contractors not be used to circumvent the hiring freeze."

Overall, Thursday's guidance lists a total of 16 different areas of exemption.

Besides cybersecurity operations and planning, the positions "deemed critical" for national security or public safety are space operations or planning, as well as positions providing operational support to the president, Defense secretary, or Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff.

Also, the order allows exemptions for positions providing child care to the children of military personnel, positions required for nuclear reactor and nuclear weapon safety and security, along with jobs in shipyards and depots that are directly involved in maintenance of equipment.

The shipyard exemption is good news for the Navy since some lawmakers have recently highlighted that four public shipyards are already are under-staffed for maintenance.