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April 22, 2004:

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy:
Ranking Minority Member:
Committee on the Judiciary:
United States Senate:

The Honorable Charles E. Schumer:
Ranking Minority Member:
Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts:
Committee on the Judiciary:
United States Senate:

Subject: Information on Selected Personnel Practices at the Justice 
Department:

Dear Senator Leahy and Senator Schumer:

This letter responds to your request that we provide information on 
selected personnel practices at the Justice Department. On March 1, 
2004, we briefed your office on the results of our review. This letter 
transmits information provided during that briefing. Specifically, the 
slides enclosed in this letter describe (1) Justice's hiring processes 
for entry-level and lateral (i.e., experienced)[Footnote 1] career 
attorneys, (2) the types of monetary awards Justice grants to political 
appointees[Footnote 2] and the number of awards granted from 1993 
through 2002, and (3) Justice's selection process for the position of 
the Assistant Attorney General for Administration.

Summary:

Justice hires entry-level attorneys through the Attorney General's 
Honors Program. Conducted on an annual basis, the program is the only 
way that Justice hires graduating law students. Nine Justice components 
participate in this program, which include the six litigating divisions 
(Antitrust, Civil, Civil Rights, Criminal, Environment and Natural 
Resources, and Tax), the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the Executive 
Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), and the U.S. Trustees 
Office.[Footnote 3] Under the direction and management of the Office of 
Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM), the components are 
responsible for various aspects of the five-step hiring process. 
Justice's hiring of lateral attorneys, which occurs on a year-round 
basis, is a largely decentralized process that involves Justice's 40 
components and individual units (i.e., sections or branches) within 
those components. Each component and unit devises its own process for 
accomplishing lateral hiring.

Justice grants two types of monetary awards to political appointees 
under Schedule C and noncareer Senior Executive Service (SES) status in 
recognition of overall high-level performance or a special act or 
service.[Footnote 4] Granted in the form of lump-sum cash, the two 
types of awards are (1) the Special Achievement Award for Sustained 
Superior Performance and (2) the Special Achievement Award for Special 
Act or Service. From 1993 through 2002, Justice granted a total of 49 
monetary awards, at an average award amount of $1,817. The average 
annual award amount ranged from $375 in 1996 to $3,868 in 
2002.[Footnote 5]

Justice's selection of an Assistant Attorney General for Administration 
is based on its merit competition process. That is, the vacancy is 
announced publicly for a minimum of 14 days. Application screening and 
candidate selection follow a set of predetermined eligibility 
requirements based on position qualifications (see apps. I and II). An 
Executive Resources Board, composed of three SES members nominated by 
the Deputy Attorney General, selects the best-qualified candidates. 
These candidates are interviewed by either the Deputy Attorney General 
or a panel of SES members. The successful candidate is approved by the 
Attorney General--subject to the President's approval--and certified by 
the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Scope and Methodology:

To obtain a general understanding of Justice's hiring processes for 
entry-level and lateral career attorney positions, we examined relevant 
documentation and interviewed Justice officials from OARM, the Office 
of the Deputy Attorney General, and the Justice Management Division. To 
gain a more in-depth understanding of Justice component roles and 
responsibilities in these hiring processes, we relied primarily on 
interviews with officials in four litigating divisions--Antitrust, 
Civil, Civil Rights, and Environment and Natural Resources. We selected 
these divisions because they do the majority of entry-level hiring 
within the Attorney General's Honors Program[Footnote 6]. In addition, 
we obtained data on aspects of Justice's entry-level hiring process for 
its 2003 hiring cycle, such as the number of applications Justice 
received and the number of candidates Justice interviewed. Because we 
used these data for illustrative purposes only, we did not verify their 
reliability.

To determine the types of monetary awards Justice grants to political 
appointees, we reviewed applicable laws and regulations and Justice and 
OPM policies, procedures, and guidelines governing Justice's authority 
in granting monetary awards to political appointees. We also 
interviewed Justice and OPM officials on the types of monetary awards 
Justice grants to political appointees. In addition, we obtained and 
analyzed data from OPM's Central Personnel Database File 
(CPDF)[Footnote 7] on the number of monetary awards Justice granted to 
political appointees from 1993 through 2002. Working with OPM and 
Justice officials, we were able to verify the accuracy of the CPDF 
awards data.

To determine Justice's selection process for the position of the 
Assistant Attorney General for Administration, we reviewed relevant 
statutory provisions governing the hiring and selection of SES 
members.[Footnote 8] We also reviewed Justice's policies and 
procedures, including the requirements of the position and the criteria 
involved in the selection process and interviewed Justice officials. In 
addition, we obtained data on aspects of the selection process for its 
most recent hiring cycle,[Footnote 9] such as the number of 
applications received and the number of final candidates that Justice 
interviewed for the position. Because we used these data for 
illustrative purposes only, we did not verify their reliability.

We conducted our work from June 2003 through April 2004 in accordance 
with generally accepted government auditing standards.

We provided the Department of Justice with a draft of this report and 
incorporated its comments as appropriate.

As agreed with your offices, unless you announce the contents of this 
report earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 
days from the date of this report. At that time, we will send copies to 
Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee; Senator 
Jeff Sessions, Senate Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the 
Courts; and the Honorable John Ashcroft, Attorney General, Department 
of Justice. We will make copies available to others on request. In 
addition, the report will be available on GAO's Web site at http://
www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff have questions regarding this report, please 
contact me at (202) 512-8777 or by e-mail at jonespl@gao.gov or William 
Crocker III at (202) 512-4533 or by email at crockerw@gao.gov. Key 
contributors to this report were David Alexander, Geoffrey Hamilton, 
Brenda Rabinowitz, John Vocino, Greg Wilmoth, Su Jin Yon, and Kathryn 
Young.

Sincerely yours,

Signed by: 

Paul Jones:

Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues:

Enclosure:

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FOOTNOTES

[1] Lateral attorneys are those who have had a law degree for at least 
1 year and are active members of the bar.

[2] Political appointments are generally made by the administration in 
office to support and advocate the President's political goals and 
policies. They are noncareer appointments--that is, they are 
noncompetitive and are not generally subject to the rules for 
competition that govern career appointments. Political appointees fill 
positions in the executive branch under various types of appointments. 
For example, they may hold Schedule C positions, obtain noncareer 
appointments to the Senior Executive Service (SES), or be presidential 
appointees.

[3] With the exception of the EOIR and BOP, the Honors Program 
appointments are for permanent attorney positions. EOIR hires 
applicants for 1-or 2-year clerkships, while BOP hires applicants for 
2-year fellowships.

[4] Schedule C appointee positions, which are graded GS-15 and below, 
are those that involve determining policy or require a close, 
confidential relationship with the agency head or other key officials 
of the agency. Noncareer SES appointee positions are those that 
normally involve advocating, formulating, and directing the programs 
and policies of the Administration.

[5] No awards were granted from 1999 through 2001.

[6] We excluded EOIR and BOP from our selection because, as we noted 
earlier, these agencies hire only for 1-to 2-year clerkships. The other 
seven Justice participating components hire attorneys on a full-time 
basis, pending passage of a bar examination.

[7] The CPDF is a database that contains individual records for most 
executive branch federal agencies and is the primary governmentwide 
source for information on federal employees.

[8] The position of Assistant Attorney General for Administration is an 
SES position.

[9] Justice's most recent hiring cycle for this position occurred in 
2002.