BREAKING NEWS: MSPB strikes down intern program


The Merit Systems Protection Board issued a decision Tuesday that appears to put the controversial Federal Career Intern Program on ice.

“The MPSB decision precludes OPM from continuing the Federal Career Intern Program until such time that OPM brings the program into compliance with Title 5,” AFGE Assistant General Counsel Andres Grajales said in a statement.

More to come.

UPDATE 1: MSPB ruled that the federal government has improperly placed FCIP positions in the excepted service, which let agencies avoid the legal requirement to notify the public that competitive service vacancies were available. Job seeker and plaintiff David Dean, a disabled veteran,  argued that this violates his right to seek federal employment, and MSPB agreed.

MSPB further ruled that FCIP violates veterans preference laws because it doesn’t require the government to justify the placement of positions in the excepted service. (Excepted service is primarily meant to fill jobs where it isn’t practical to hold a competition.) MSPB said FCIP has been used to fill positions with non-veterans, who ordinarily should not have been picked ahead of job seekers who were veterans.

MSPB ordered OPM to bring FCIP into compliance with Title 5 laws governing veterans preference within 120 days. MSPB also ordered the Veterans Affairs Department to “reconstruct the hiring process” for nine positions in Columbia, S.C., that another plaintiff, Larry Evans, applied for in 2009.

This is big news. We’ll keep looking into this — check back tomorrow for more.


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  1. Would love to hear more of your take on this. The Board should certainly be getting more press and exposure for the bold and brave moves it has been making toward restoring civil service.

  2. The Unions are trying to take credit for work they did not perform. I asked them for help. They did not return my telephone calls or answer my emails.

    David Dean

  3. There HAS to be a better way to resolve the issue of balancing hiring young talent into a “pipeline” program and meeting the intent of the veterans preferance laws. Abolishing intern programs does not solve this problem – hiring managers don’t like to be told who they are required to hire. They’d rather cancel an announcement and start the process over from scratch. Maybe a study should be done to correlate the slow hiring times against managers who refuse to hire anyone due to a veteran “blocking” their top choice. I understand the intent of the law, but it’s causing more problems than what it’s helping.

  4. Too much preference on

    I’m a vet, and while I agree that the ruling abides by the law – I think there is a fair argument for why the preferences have gotten to be an obstacle in recruiting new people into government service – hence why the intern programs have become popular.

    The rule of three makes it almost impossible to not hire a vet off the public lists.

    Nothing wrong with this – EXCEPT that there are many vets, already in government service, who apply through the public openings to take advantage of the rule of three.

    What does this mean? It means that vets trying to get in to government for the first time often aren’t being blocked by hiring managers, they are being blocked by vets already in the government who are using their preferences over and over again.

    As far as the programs, with the current economy, is it really a bad idea for hiring managers to try and get some highly qualified private sector people in the government? Without direct hires, there is little chance of anyone without a military background getting listed on a cert for publicly competed position.

    I know it’s Veteran’s day – and that’s a tough day to criticize a preference system. However, a vet’s preference should be a way to get you in government – not a way to skirt merit promotions by constantly re-using your preference status over and over again. The current system isn’t really a vets preference as much as its become a special preference for vets already in government.

  5. I am a retired Air Force E-7 seeking federal emlpoyment. I have a 10 point preference. I’ve applied for a dozen positions wihtout luck. I applied for a Radiology Manager position. The person who had to put the interviewers togetherseemed quite put out that she had to do this for me and it showed in her attitude. The hired within. A Nuclear Medicine Tech. Manager are a dime a dozen. Nuc Med techs are not. Another uneducated and uninformed hiring authority. I applied for a Civilain Liasion job at the military hospital I worked at for 20 yrs. I was told that there were no qualified applicants so she was goin to readvertise. She never did. DOL guy said it was just the way hiring authorities get around vet preference and that there really is no longer any preference.

  6. Rightful Citizen on

    The FCIP appointment program is grossly abused by federal managers. I have seen this one too many times. FCIP excuse is used to bring someone on board without an official announcement (illegal and unethical). We live in a capitalist society but we operate more like socialists/communists.

    The solution is quite simple: Post student openings, SCEP, STEP, or even FCIP on to make it fair and equitable. Allow everyone to compete for it and pick the best candidates based on ABILITIES not CONNECTIONS. That’s all it takes! Be fair, be honest, hire talent based on abilities, education, and credentials.

  7. Wow…this affects me greatly…had an interview this Tuesday because of this issue, it is now canceled until who knows when.

  8. I will be a FCIP who was offered a position (engineering – technical) in October 2010 and has been authorized to work in January 2011. Will I lose my job because of these politics? Quite worried…

  9. Rightful Citizen on

    Most likely, because of this recent ruling, those who are currently in FCIP position’s will need to be administratively terminated by OPM. That means FCIP’s will have to be fired, and the jobs will need to be posted competitively and those same FCIP employees will need to reapply and re-compete for their old jobs in a fair, but equitable manner, as it should be.

    However, couple this with the President’s 2010 hiring freeze and you know what that means? When a federal hiring freeze is instituted, those in student FCIP, STEP, or SCEP position’s are immediately terminated. Sometimes they will allow a few FCIP’s to continue until their 2-year contract ends, but the agencies CANNOT convert them into permanent positions because of the freeze.

    My advice to students in FCIP, SCEP, or STEP positions is to immediately begin looking for work. I work at OPM and I am simply relaying the non-classified information made available to federal agencies. If your agency has not informed you of this situation by now, please ask them first, they have all received the same Memo from OPM. Good Luck!

  10. Rightful Citizen,

    So how reliable of a source are you? I was at a new employee orientation where about 1/3 of the room was career interns or SCEP students. If you do know what you are talking about what kind of timeline (or dates) are we looking at. I know the hiring process is not very fast (5 months) sometimes at best, and many agencies will be without positions for and extended period of time. Just wondering.

  11. wrongful citizen on

    Rightful Citizen,

    How is it fair for Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) STUDENTS to compete against vets for a position and appointment designed as an internship. Not many vets can apply for these positions due to the fact you must be enrolled in higher ed at the time of hire. And if there is a hiring hold how can some forests operate with the large amount of retirements occuring. One forest in particular will not have a forest engineer, TMO, transportation planner, GIS specialist, and rec engineer as of march. So that forest is supposed to ‘float’ until the hiring freeze thaws? I highly doubt it, and if they are supposed to ‘float’ the forest will be in a world of hurt when the thaw comes.

    The whole idea of ‘you need to help ME’ is ridiculous and these vets need to buck up and deal. No one should be guaranteed preference, if they are not the best qualified, they should not be hired. SCEP’s are hired as interns and a position is available from the hire date no SCEP in progress should be terminated because they were hired with a contractual agreement that a position is available to them when they fulfill their requirements.

  12. The next thing that needs to be investigated is the use of duel announcements by agencies (interior Merit staffing and outside DEU) such as HUD in which they make the selection from the interior announcement and not from the DEU to avoid Vet Preference in hiring.

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