Protect the Future of the PMF Program
“We, the undersigned, call on all governmental departments and agencies to resume their full participation in the Presidential Management Fellows Program, and for the Office of Personnel Management, which administers the program, to work to minimize the administrative obstacles preventing this year’s and future classes from reaching their goal of public service.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Presidential Management Fellows Program, America’s most distinguished and selective recruitment pathway to federal public service. With roughly 400 finalists selected from over 6000 recent graduates with advanced degrees, the PMF Program only accepts qualified professionals ready to serve the American people. Hailing from across the nation and the political spectrum, PMF finalists are experts whose specializations range from infectious disease to farm science to trade with East Asia. Their ranks include combat veterans, single parents, and second-generation Americans; indeed, their only common denominator is merit and a commitment to serve the public good.
In recognition of the importance of the PMF program to America’s future, President Trump specifically chose to exempt the program from the three-month government-wide hiring freeze earlier this year. However, uncertainty related to the federal budget has caused many departments and federal agencies to individually withdraw from the program. Hundreds of job openings have been cancelled and dozens of job offers have been rescinded, leaving critical positions unfilled and finalists in the lurch. The confusion surrounding the guidance on exemption, coupled with an unusual overlap with the previous year’s class, has also led to an unprecedented lag in PMF appointments; nine months into the one year hiring phase, only one-third of PMFs belonging to the class of 2017 have been hired.
America faces a growing list of challenges: terrorism, the opioid crisis, nuclear proliferation, healthcare costs, and global trade competition are just a few of the areas where demands are constantly mounting on the federal government. As of September 2017, one-third of career federal employees are eligible for retirement. Regardless of fiscal philosophy, agencies like Veterans Affairs, the Department of Justice, and Health and Human Services will continue to require accomplished and highly motivated personnel to work for the good of all Americans -- empty offices do not develop infrastructure plans or investigate terrorist plots. Moreover, studies have concluded that the PMF program “effectively recruits talented people to the federal service,” that PMFs have a “stronger dedication to public service than their colleagues in government,” and that the “overwhelming majority” of supervisors found the program to “offe[r] better employees than other hiring methods.”
Our national institutions are only as good as the people working in them, and shutting down or restricting the PMF pipeline merely robs present and future generations of taxpayers of the best possible service from their federal government.