New Bill Would Add “Schedule F”-type Hiring Authorities at NSF

Categories: The Insider

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a global leader in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and a highly successful, cost-effective federal agency supporting basic research. The agency provides funding and resources to researchers at universities and businesses across the country. These researchers do the actual research while the NSF’s role is to lead the global gold standard for merit review. NSF staff must be able to sort through researchers’ personal views and biases to arrive at an objective recommendation to promote the progress of science – the agency’s mission. But a new bill threatens to undermine that mission. 

Although well-intentioned, the National Science Foundation for the Future Act (HR 2225), introduced March 26 by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, would allow the NSF director to essentially make an unlimited number of hiring appointments without regard to civil service laws and to pay those employees up to the Vice President’s salary at $235,000, which is beyond the civil service pay scale. 

That “Schedule F”-type authority could have major unintended negative effects on the NSF workforce – the backbone of the agency – if it is not removed from the final bill. 

The Senate bill, the Endless Frontier Act introduced last year, is not as broad as the House bill in waiving civil service laws but would provide the agency with unnecessary appointment and pay authorities. 

AFGE believes existing personnel rules must be maintained as they ensure that the government’s scientific and engineering personnel are hired based on merit rather than political or other considerations. 

“The waiver of civil service appointment laws on such a vast scale bears a striking resemblance to the Trump Administration’s attempt to impose a new Schedule F hiring authority on a large portion of the civil service,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said in a letter to Rep. Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. 

“This hiring authority is neither needed nor welcome to support new research and development activities at the NSF,” David J. Verardo, PhD, president of AFGE Local 3403 representing NSF employees, wrote in a separate letter to the lawmakers. “The NSF already employs a complementary mix of federal employees, contractors, and academic exchange personnel (under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act) to achieve its mission.” 

Verardo, who has been working at NSF for 20 years on various scientific programs, said NSF already has all the authority needed to hire good people and pay them a good salary to join the NSF enterprise.

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