Right Now

Dr. Coburn, with Senators Burr, Enzi, Grassley, Ayotte, and Thune, sent a letter to Acting Office of Personnel Management Director Elaine Kaplan regarding OPM's 2010 decision to grant the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “direct hire authority” after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”  

In the letter, they outline nine issue areas with specific questions for OPM including why special authority was granted to fill 1,800 “mission critical positions” over 6 months that were “necessary for implementing the health care law," meaning HHS would have had to hire roughly 10 candidates per day in order to fill all positions.  The letter follows OPM's release of documents after Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request available here.  


  • Direct-hire authority is a legal authority that the OPM can give to Federal agencies for filling vacancies when a critical hiring need or severe shortage of candidates exists. This authority effectively allows Federal agencies to hire, after public notice is given, any qualified applicant without regard to other provisions of law which would otherwise place certain restrictions on the hiring process.
  • On the date of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – which became law on March 23, 2010—former OPM director John Berry’s sent a letter to Denise Wells, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources at HHS. The letter states that HHS has the authority “to fill 1,814 mission critical positions at the GS-9 through GS-15 grade levels(or equivalent) as depicted above [in the letter] nationwide. This authority is based on a critical hiring in support of the Health Care Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010.” The letter is clear that “this authority will provide HHS with the means to meet hiring needs in support of the Act.”


Date Title
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9/12/13 Chairman Carper, Ranking Member Coburn Highlight GAO Report on Duplicative IT Investments
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9/6/13 Current record
9/5/13 Medicare Actuary: Coburn-Lieberman Medicare Plan Saves $535 B, Could Extend Program’s Solvency for Decades