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Number: DAO 202-335
Effective Date: 2017-06-15


.01     The purpose of this Order is to implement the merit assignment program (MAP) policy for competitive service positions throughout the Department of Commerce (Department) and to provide broad guidance to Servicing Human Resources Offices (SHRO) on developing a MAP plan for their serviced bureau(s)/operating unit(s).

.02     This revision updates Department policies for compliance with current rules and regulations, and removes references to the obsolete Federal Personnel Manual.  In addition, the revision adds a section on regulatory requirements, mandatory Department requirements, and flexibilities within each SHRO MAP plan; adds language regarding applying “due weight” within the selection process; adds a section on special priority consideration; provides the Director for Human Resources Management with the authority to make exceptions and modifications to non-regulatory requirements of this Order; and removes the limitation of referring only ten (10) candidates on a MAP certificate of eligibles.



.01     Coverage.  

a.       This Order constitutes the requirements of the Department for promotions in the competitive service and for other selections and assignments to positions when they are required to be made under MAP procedures.  

b.       This Order applies to positions filled at the GS-1 through GS-15 or equivalent; as well as Senior Level (SL) positions, and Scientific or Professional (ST) positions filled using competitive procedures.

.02     Exclusions.

a.       This Order does not apply to employees in bargaining units covered by negotiated agreements that include this subject.

b.        This Order does not apply to non-competitive actions or positions filled under a special non-competitive hiring authority.

c.         This Order does not apply to positions in the Senior Executive Service (SES).  Guidance on filling positions in the SES is contained in the “Executive Personnel Policy Manual.”

d.         This Order does not apply to positions in the Excepted Service.  Guidance on filling positions in the Excepted Service is contained in Department Administrative Order (DAO) 202-302, “Employment in the Excepted Service.”

e.         This Order does not apply to positions filled within the Foreign Service.  Guidance on filling positions in the Foreign Service is contained in DAO 202-900, “Foreign Service Personnel Management” and in the “Foreign Affairs Manual” issued by the Department of State.

f.          This Order does not apply to positions and employees in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Commissioned Officer Corps.  Positions and employees in the NOAA Corps are covered under NOAA Corps Directives.

g.         This Order does not apply to positions within the Office of Inspector General (OIG), as the OIG does not derive its human resources management authority from the Department.  See Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, 5 U.S.C. App. 3; Department Administrative Order 202-250, Delegation of Authority for Human Resources Management.



.01       Principal Human Resources Managers (PHRMs) of a SHRO and their designees, have authority and responsibility for developing and administering a MAP plan for their respective serviced bureaus(s)/operational unit(s) in accordance with and in compliance with this Order.

.02       Heads of Bureaus/Operating Units, and their designees, have the responsibility for adhering to the MAP plan for their respective organization.

.03       The Director, Enterprise Services Center (ESC) and his/her designees, have the responsibility for adhering to the respective MAP plan for the bureaus(s)/operational unit(s) for which they service.

.04       It is the policy of the Department that all actions which are subject to MAP requirements shall be made solely on the basis of merit and qualifications, within the limits of applicable laws and regulations.  All qualified applicants and employees shall receive consideration without regard to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, labor organization affiliation or non-affiliation, status as a parent, any other factor(s) stated in the Secretary’s Policy Statement on Equal Employment Opportunity, or any other non-merit-based factor. 

.05       Job Opportunity Announcements (JOAs) and all paid advertising for recruitment shall include a statement that the Department is an equal opportunity employer, and that it provides reasonable accommodations to applicants with disabilities where appropriate.  Employment programs shall be consistent with the Department’s guidance on equal employment opportunity.   


.01       Existing Plans.  PHRMs are responsible for modifying existing MAP plans for their serviced bureaus(s)/operational unit(s) in compliance with this Order, unless specifically delayed by provisions of established labor agreements, for approval by the Director for Human Resources Management (Director) within six months of the issuance of this Order.  The development of specific implementing procedures for application of this Order in the individual bureau/operating unit’s MAP plan shall include consultation and/or negotiation with supervisors, employees, and/or exclusive representative(s) of the employees, as appropriate.

.02       Additions or Changes in the Future.  Any proposed provision of an existing MAP plan which is inconsistent with requirements of this Order, must be approved by the Director.



.01       Regulatory requirements for all MAP plans.

All MAP policies must:

a.         Comply with Merit System Principles, 5 U.S.C. § 2301(b) and be free from prohibited personnel actions as defined in title 5 U.S.C. § 2302.

b.         Comply with all applicable collective bargaining agreements, laws and statutes, and Executive Orders.

c.         State that actions under the Plan, whether identification, qualification, evaluation, or selection of candidates, must be made without regard to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, labor organization affiliation or non-affiliation, status as a parent, or any other non-merit based factor, unless specifically designated by statute as a factor that must be taken into consideration, or retaliation for exercising rights with respect to the categories above, 5 C.F.R. § 335.103(b)(1), as well as the Secretary’s Policy Statement of Equal Employment Opportunity.

d.         Require applicants to meet all eligibility requirements as stated on the JOA by the closing date of the JOA.

e.         Contain language that ensures employees within the area of consideration who are absent for legitimate reason, e.g., on detail, on leave, at training courses, in the military service, or serving in public international organization or on Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignments, are eligible to receive consideration for promotion under the provision of this Plan. 5 C.F.R. § 335.103 (b)(2).  Employees are responsible for seeking information on positions of interest and applying for such positions by the required application deadline.  The SHRO and the ESC will not be responsible for searching and applying for positions on an employee’s behalf.

f.          Establish procedures which indicate that to be eligible for promotion or placement, applicants must meet the minimum qualification standards prescribed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), 5 C.F.R. § 335.103(b)(3), or any applicable approved Department of bureau/operating unit standard, as well as defined specialized experience and any selective placement factor(s), by the closing date of the JOA.

g.         Establish ranking and selection procedures which provide for management’s right to select or not select from among a group of best qualified candidates, as well as management’s right to select from other appropriate sources such as re-employment priority lists, reinstatement, transfer, special appointing authorities (i.e., thirty-percent (30%) disabled veterans, persons with disabilities, Veteran Recruitment Appointment, Peace Corp, etc.), or individuals within reach on any appropriate certificate of eligibles, including a competitive examining certificate. 5 C.F.R. § 335.103(b)(4).

h.         Provide methods of evaluation for promotion and placement, and selection for training which leads to promotion, must be consistent with instructions in 5 C.F.R. § 335.103(b)(3).
i.          Establish provisions for record keeping and releasing necessary information to employees and the public, while ensuring individual’s rights to privacy are protected.  The provisions must include a method for maintaining a record of each action sufficient to allow reconstruction of the action, including documentation on how candidates were rated and ranked. 5 C.F.R. § 335.103(b)(5).  It is the policy of the Department to maintain these records indefinitely until such time as the Director suspends this requirement.

j.          List appropriate exceptions, including those required by law or regulation, as specified in 5 C.F.R. § 335.103(c)(3).

k.         Establish that grievances arising out of the operation of a MAP policy are subject to DAO 202-771, “Administrative Grievance Procedure,” if the employee is not covered by a negotiated grievance procedure (NGP) or the NGP specifically excludes grievances over the operation of a MAP policy from the scope of the NGP.

l.          Notify applicants of the results of their application in accordance with OPM guidance and/or by any applicable Department policy.

m.        Establish that the Reemployment Assistance Programs (i.e., Reemployment Priority List, and Career Transition Assistance Plan), in DAO 202-300, “Employment (General),” take precedence over Section 6, Special Priority Consideration, of this Order.

.02       Mandatory Department requirements for all MAP policies.

All MAP policies must contain the following:

a.         The area of consideration for JOAs must be sufficiently broad to ensure the availability of a high quality, diverse pool of candidates, taking into account the nature and level of the position, and any applicable Department policy. 

b.         Subject matter experts (SMEs) may be used to assist with rating and ranking of candidates to further determine the pool of best qualified candidates when requested by either the hiring manager, or the SHRO/ESC.  SMEs cannot be used to assist with determining minimally qualified candidates because human resources specialists must perform minimum qualification determinations.  SMEs must have knowledge of the competences of the position being advertised.  In addition, SMEs must not be the hiring manager, must not be an applicant for the position, and must not be an applicant’s relative or member of an applicant’s household.

For GS and equivalent positions, SME must be at the same grade level or higher than the full performance level of the position to be filled.  For ST and SL positions, SME must be in a position equivalent to one above the GS-15 or equivalent (ex. SES, ST, SL).

c.         There is no limit on the number of best qualified applicants that can be referred.  All applicants deemed to be best qualified must be referred.  Best qualified is defined as those whose scores fall within the range of the corresponding competitive examining JOA “GOLD” category, or have scores that fall between ninety and one hundred (90-100) if there is no corresponding competitive examining JOA. 

When there are fewer than three candidates within the range of the corresponding competitive examining JOA “GOLD” category, upon concurrence by the hiring manager, all individuals within the range of the corresponding competitive examining JOA “SILVER” category, or have scores that fall between eighty and eighty-nine (80-89), if there is no corresponding competitive examining JOA, may be referred to the hiring manager.

d.         Applicants who are deemed non-competitive based on a hiring authority (i.e., Schedule A, thirty-percent (30%) disabled, etc.), reinstatement eligibility, etc., are not rated and ranked; therefore, such applicants are placed on a separate non-competitive certificate of eligibles.  However, veterans’ preference must be applied in accordance with title 5 C.F.R. Chapter I, Subchapter B, Part 302 to excepted service non-competitive hiring authorities.

e.         The MAP certificate of eligibles is only valid for thirty (30) calendar days from the date of issuance, and may be extended for thirty (30) additional calendar days only with the approval of the PHRM or his/her designee in the SHRO or the Director, ESC or his/her designee.

f.          Hiring managers are not required to interview any candidates, including those listed on the competitive MAP certificate; they may choose to interview one, some, none, or all of the candidates on a certificate of eligibles.

g.         The following open periods apply for JOAs: minimum of seven (7) calendar days (or current Department policy); open and continuous; or a designated number of applicants received, with fifty (50) being the minimum.

h.         Due weight shall be given to performance appraisals and awards in accordance with 5 C.F.R. § 335.103(b)(3), during the selection process conducted by the hiring manager; or any approved bureau/operating unit policy and/or written standard operating procedures.

i.          A process for adjudicating a written request from an applicant for a reconsideration of his/her qualification determination or rating to include a first level and second level review process.  The process must include a timeframe for applicants to submit a written request and for the SHRO/ESC to reply in writing to the request.

j.          The language in Section 6 of this Order, Special Priority Consideration.

.03       Flexibility in MAP policies.

a.          MAP policies may contain the following flexibilities upon approval by the Director for Human Resources Management, of a specific written implementation plan.

i.          Flexibility of sharing MAP certificates of eligibles, except for SL/ST certificates, between offices within the same bureau/operating unit and between different bureaus/operating units.

ii.         Flexibility to utilize multi-hurdle assessments not administered by OPM.

b.         Current employees serving under a term appointment are eligible to compete for another term position within the same project. 5 C.F.R. § 335.102(e).  Note:  This MAP action does not provide a new term appointment; the not-to-exceed date of the original term appointment remains the same.

Applicants who fail to receive proper consideration in a MAP competitive action will receive special priority consideration when reconstruction of the action shows that the applicant would have appeared on the best qualified list of eligible (i.e. wrong qualification determination, failure to consider, improper rating, etc.).  The following procedures are to be followed: 1) If the affected certificate(s) is still active and a selection has not been made, the selecting official is notified immediately and the certificate of eligibles is amended to include the applicant; 2) If the affected certificate(s) has expired and no selection was made, the individual is not entitled to receive special priority consideration for that JOA; 3) If a selection has already been made from the affected certificate(s), the individual must receive priority consideration for the next appropriate JOA within the same bureau/operating unit, at the same series, grade, promotion potential, and geographic location of the position previously applied to for a period of one year.  The individual eligible for priority consideration must be considered by the selecting official before other applicants are referred for selection. 

Although the hiring manager is not required to select the employee, the hiring manager should consider the employee carefully.  Documentation of consideration by the hiring manager and reason(s) for non-selection must be maintained as part of the JOA case file.  An employee is entitled to only one instance of this special priority consideration for each instance of lost selection consideration.  The employee is no longer entitled to special priority consideration if he/she declines a position offered through this mechanism.



.01       SHRO/ESC are to make available their MAP policy, in writing, to candidates, employees, hiring managers, and the general public upon request.

.02       MAP plans shall provide that all applicants be notified of the status of their application, in accordance with Department policy, when they apply to a JOA.



The administration of the MAP policy in each SHRO/ESC shall be evaluated periodically by the Department’s Office of Accountability (or equivalent), and/or by OPM.



Complaints arising out of the operation of a MAP plan can be processed under the following channels; however, non-selection from among a group of properly ranked and certified eligibles, is not a grievable matter: 

.01       The administrative grievance system, DAO 202-771, “Administrative Grievance Procedure,” or the negotiated grievance procedure, where applicable;

.02       Through Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) procedures; or

.03       Collective Bargaining Agreements, as appropriate.  



The Director for Human Resources Management has the authority to grant exceptions or to modify Section 5.02, “Mandatory Department requirements for all MAP policies,” and to any other section of this Order that is not mandated by law or regulation.



This Order supersedes Department Administrative Order 202-335, “Merit Assignment Program,” dated October 2, 1979, except that the provisions of the previous order remain in effect with respect to the SHROs’ existing MAP plan promulgated thereunder until that plan is revised as required by Section 3 of this Order.


Signed by: Director for Human Resources Management and Chief Human Capital Officer

Approved by: Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration

Office of Primary Interest: Office of Human Resources Management

APPENDIX A.  Merit Assignment Program Policy Model Content 

The following provides for a model of subjects to be contained in a merit assignment program plan.

Section 1.  Purpose
Section 2.  Applicability
Section 3.  Authority
Section 4.  Definitions
Section 5.  Policy
Section 6.  Coverage
Section 7.  Area of consideration
Section 8.  Open Period
Section 9.  Job Opportunity Announcements
Section 10.  Qualification and Evaluation
Section 11.  Responsibility
Section 12.  Order of Selection
Section 13.  Career Ladder (Full Performance Level)
Section 14.  Grievances
Section 15.  Modification to this Plan

Questions and Comments

Send Questions or Comments on the Commerce Directives Management program to Directives@doc.gov.

Office of Privacy and Open Government
Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce


June 20, 2017