Excepted service

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The excepted service is the part of the United States federal civil service that is not part of either the competitive service or the Senior Executive Service. It provides streamlined hiring processes to be used under certain circumstances.


Most civilian positions in the federal government of the United States are part of the competitive service, where applicants must compete with other applicants in open competition under the merit system administered by the Office of Personnel Management. However, some agencies (and some positions within other agencies) are excluded from these provisions. Although they primarily operate on a merit basis also, they have their own hiring systems and evaluation criteria. These agencies are called excepted service agencies and such positions are part of the excepted civil service.

The primary common denominator of many of these agencies and positions is that they have national security and/or intelligence functions, such as the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, and the NCIS. Attorney positions, Presidential Management Fellows, Presidential Innovation Fellows, and Foreign Service positions are examples of positions excepted across-the-board in all Federal agencies. Not all excepted service members serve in sensitive areas—for example, teachers and administrators at DOD schools, both in the U.S. and overseas, are also excepted, as are all patent examiners. In addition, most employees in the legislative branch of the federal government are excepted service employees.

One key factor concerning the excepted service is that employees have fewer appeal rights (compared to positions in the competitive service) in the event of disciplinary actions or job termination. For example, non-veteran employees in the excepted service are generally barred from appealing adverse agency personnel decisions to the United States Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) or to the Federal courts for their first two years of employment, whereas employees in the competitive service have a one-year probationary period. Some members of the excepted service, including some of those in intelligence agencies and all Central Intelligence Agency employees, have no right to an external appeal at all.[1] Excepted service agencies have consistently claimed that they need the speed and flexibility afforded by being in the excepted service in order to perform their missions and maintain good order and discipline.

Legal basis[edit]

From 5 U.S.C. § 2103:

(a) For the purpose of this title, the excepted service consists of those civil service positions which are not in the competitive service or the Senior Executive Service.

(b) As used in other Acts of the United States Congress, “unclassified civil service” or “unclassified service” means the “excepted service”.

Hiring authorities[edit]

Schedule A: 13.8%Schedule B: 1.3%Schedule C: 0.2%Schedule D: 2.5%Executive: 0.1%Other: 82.1%Circle frame.svg
  •   Schedule A: 13.8%
  •   Schedule B: 1.3%
  •   Schedule C: 0.2%
  •   Schedule D: 2.5%
  •   Executive: 0.1%
  •   Other: 82.1%
Excepted service positions by hiring
authority in 2015[2]

A hiring authority is the law, executive order, or regulation that allows an agency to hire a person into the federal civil service.[3]

Office of Personnel Management schedules[edit]

Some service positions are classified by the Office of Personnel Management into four categories, although not all excepted service authorities fall into this classification:

  • Schedule A appointments are "impracticable to examine". They are used to appoint specific position types such as attorneys, chaplains, physicians; when there is a critical hiring need or the position is in a remote location; and to hire disabled applicants. In addition to this, as of 2016, there were 122 agency-unique Schedule A hiring authorities.[2][4]
  • Schedule B appointments are "not practicable to hold a competitive examination". Schedule B appointees must meet the qualification standards for the job. As of 2016, there were 36 agency-unique Schedule B hiring authorities.[2][4]
  • Schedule C appointments are political appointments to confidential or policy-setting positions.[2][4]
  • Schedule D appointments are those where competitive service requirements "make impracticable the adequate recruitment of sufficient numbers". These are known as the Pathways Programs, which consist of the Internship Program, Recent Graduates Program, and Presidential Management Fellows Program.[2][4]
  • Schedule E appointments are administrative law judges.[5]

In addition to these schedules, the Donald J Trump Administration established Schedule F, designed to apply to "confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions".[6]. On his second full day in office, President Joe Biden eliminated Schedule F through an Executive Order.[7]

Schedules A and B were created by the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, Schedule C was created in 1956, and Schedule D was created in 2012.[2] Schedule E was created in 2018[5] and Schedule F in 2020.[6] The creation of Schedule F by the Trump administration was controversial, as it was estimated to cause tens or hundreds of thousands of career employees to lose civil service protections,[8] and increase the number of political appointments by a factor of ten.[9] The Office of Management and Budget placed 88% of its career staff into Schedule F positions in December 2020, but that action was nullified by the elimination of Schedule F on January 22, 2021.[10]

Other hiring authorities[edit]

Several excepted service hiring authorities are not classified into the four schedules. Some of the more prevalent include:

Principal excepted agencies[edit]

The following are selected excepted service agencies:[18]


  1. ^ https://fas.org/irp/gao/nsiad-96-6.pdf
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Excepted Service Hiring Authorities: Their Use and Effectiveness in the Executive Branch" (PDF). U.S. Office of Personnel Management. 2018-07-01. pp. 1–2, 9, 20. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Federal Hiring: OPM Needs to Improve Management and Oversight of Hiring Authorities". U. S. Government Accountability Office. 2016-09-01. pp. 0, 9–11.
  4. ^ a b c d "Federal Hiring Flexibilities Resource Center". U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  5. ^ a b "Executive Order Excepting Administrative Law Judges from the Competitive Service". whitehouse.gov. 2018-07-10. Archived from the original on 2021-01-20. Retrieved 2020-10-24 – via National Archives.
  6. ^ a b "Executive Order on Creating Schedule F In The Excepted Service". whitehouse.gov. 2020-10-21. Archived from the original on 2021-01-30. Retrieved 2020-10-24 – via National Archives.
  7. ^ www.whitehouse.gov
  8. ^ Rein, Lisa; Yoder, Eric (2020-10-22). "Trump issues sweeping order for tens of thousands of career federal employees to lose civil service protections". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  9. ^ Ogrysko, Nicole (2020-10-23). "What they're saying about the new Schedule F". Federal News Network. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  10. ^ https://www.govexec.com/management/2020/11/omb-reportedly-designates-88-its-employees-schedule-f/170275/
  11. ^ "NIH Policy Manual: Title 38 Premium Pay". U.S. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
  12. ^ "Pay for Consultants and Scientists Appointed under Title 42". U.S. Government Accountability Office. B-323357. 2012-07-12. pp. 2–5, 17, 20. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  13. ^ "HHS and EPA Can Improve Practices Under Special Hiring Authorities". U. S. Government Accountability Office. GAO-12-692. 2012-07-12. pp. 0–6, 11, 25. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  14. ^ "HHS Instruction 42-3: Senior Biomedical Research and Biomedical Product Assessment Service". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2020-06-03. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  15. ^ H.R. 5241, Pub.L. 101–509
  16. ^ a b c Hooper, Celia (January–February 1995). "Title 38, SBRS raise salary caps". The NIH Catalyst. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  17. ^ a b Denigan-Macauley, Mary (2020-05-08). "Biomedical Research: HHS Has Not Yet Used New Authorities to Improve Recruitment and Retention of Scientists". U. S. Government Accountability Office. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  18. ^ "Excepted Service Information & Employment Opportunities" (PDF). U.S. Office of Personnel Management. 2010-01-15.