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This Directive was canceled February 14, 2006.

Personnel Management Manual: Part I, Chapter 3: Assignment and Utilization of Employees
Classification Code Date
M3000.1B May 22, 2000  


  1. What is the purpose of this section?
  2. What references were used when writing this section?
  3. What is the FHWA policy on merit promotion?
  4. What are the major definitions?
  5. What is affected by this plan?
  6. What are the actions covered by competitive promotion procedures?
  7. What actions are excluded from the competitive promotion procedures?
  8. What methods are used for filling positions?
  9. How do applicants apply for merit promotion consideration?
  10. How are candidates evaluated?
  11. How are candidates certified?
  12. What are the selection procedures?
  13. How long are promotion records kept?
  14. What information is made available to applicants?
  15. Can the promotion files be audited?

  1. What is the purpose of this section? This section issues the
  2. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Merit Promotion Plan (MPP).

  3. What references were used when writing this section?
    1. Title 5, United States Code, Part 335, Promotion and Internal Placement.

    2. Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 335, Promotion and
    3. Internal Placement.

    4. Departmental Personnel Manual (DPM) Chapter 335, Merit Promotion Plans.
    5. FHWA Personnel Management Manual (PMM), Chapter 3, Section 7, Technical Career Tracks Program.

  4. What is the FHWA policy on merit promotion?
    1. Merit and Non-Discrimination. Under the MPP, selections and promotions throughout the FHWA are based on job-related criteria and on merit principles. All actions are to be taken without regard to political, religious, or labor organization affiliation or non-affiliation, marital status, race, color, sex, national origin, non-disqualifying physical or mental disability, age, sexual orientation, or any other nonmerit factor.
    2. Selection. Management has the right to fill or not fill a specific vacancy, to determine the most appropriate method for filling a vacancy, and to select or not select from among a group of best qualified candidates on a properly constituted selection certificate. Management also has the right to select from other appropriate sources, such as from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) certificates or registers, delegated examining authorities, reemployment priority lists, reinstatement, reassignment, repromotion, transfer, excepted appointments and special appointing authorities (Veterans Readjustment Appointment (VRA), Selective Placement). In choosing the appropriate source, management will consider FHWA mission objectives, organizational diversity, and affirmative employment goals contained in the Multi-Year Affirmative Employment Plan.
    3. Mobility
    4. (1) A geographically mobile work force is beneficial to agency effectiveness as well as to employee career development. Supervisors and high-level management officials should encourage their employees to diversify their work experience in order to enhance their career opportunities. Agency managers may actively foster movement by exercising their option to competitively advertise vacant career-ladder positions when circumstances warrant.

      (2) Geographic and functional diversity of experience may be considered in the FHWA merit promotion process, but only in positions where such diversity is job-related.

  5. What are the major definitions?
    1. Ad Hoc rating panel - a panel consisting of at least three members, at or above the grade level of the vacancy, convened for the rating and ranking of candidates for a specific competitive action. For a technical career track position, the ad hoc rating panel will be the two-step panel process consisting ofa peer/expert review panel and a management panel, in accordance with PMM Chapter 3, Section 7, Technical Career Tracks Program.
    2. Career promotion - a promotion without current competition when at an earlier stage, an employee was selected from an OPM register or under competitive promotion procedures for an assignment intended to prepare the employee for the full performance level of the position being filled.
    3. KSA's - the knowledges, skills, abilities, and other characteristics identified as necessary or important for successful performance in a position.
    4. Rating guide - a plan containing the job-related criteria used to measure the quality of qualified candidates' experience, education, training, performance, honors, awards, and outside activities in relation to each KSA.
    5. Selective factors - the job-related qualification(s) essential for satisfactory performance on the job. These are in addition to the basic qualification standards for a position. (Example: ability to speak, read, or write a language other than English.)
    6. Unit manager - a Core Business Unit Program Manager, Service Business Unit Director, Resource Center Director, Division Administrator, or Federal Lands Division Engineer.

  6. What is affected by this plan?
    1. Employees. All career, career conditional, and temporary employees with competitive status are eligible to compete for promotion and other competitive opportunities. Employees on term appointments may compete for promotions and other competitive opportunities within the limits of the provisions of the term authority.
    2. Positions
    3. (1) Positions in the competitive service, i.e., GS-1 through GS-15, and all Federal Wage System positions are covered under MPP procedures.

      (2) The same procedures are used for filling FHWA excepted service positions overseas, unless the Executive Director specifically exempts these positions from coverage.

      (3) Senior Executive Service (SES) positions are not covered under this MPP.

  7. What are the actions covered by competitive promotion procedures? Competitive procedures must be followed for promotion actions and for other actions. These actions are summarized in the chart.

  8. What actions are excluded from the competitive promotion procedures? These actions are summarized in the chart.

  9. What methods are used for filling positions?

    1. General. The selecting official should consider various recruitment sources and methods for filling a position taking into consideration organizational and occupational diversity, under-representation/affirmative employment goals and the effective use of employees. Procedures may include such actions as placing a candidate with priority consideration, reassigning an employee, or announcing a Merit Promotion Opportunity.

    2. Merit Promotion Vacancy Announcements. When a position is being filled through the competitive merit promotion procedures, the servicing personnel office will issue a Merit Promotion Vacancy Announcement.

      (1) Distribution of Announcements. All announcements will be circulated in a timely manner using distribution media (either electronic or hard copy format) easily accessible to all potentially interested employees within the designated area of consideration.

      (2) Areas of Consideration. The area of consideration for eligible applicants should be large enough to provide an adequate supply of well-qualified candidates. In determining the organizational and geographic area, the grade level, specialized qualifications needed for successful performance, and nature of the position being filled should be considered.

      (3) Minimum Area

      (a) The minimum area of consideration cannot be smaller than a resource center or division office in the field or an office or a comparable organizational unit within the Washington Headquarters.

      (b) For excepted service positions overseas, the individual office, may be used as the minimum area of consideration for promotion actions at grades GS-14 and GS-15 or equivalent positions in the Foreign Service.

      (c) FHWA-wide is the mandatory minimum area of consideration for all grade GS-15, GS-14 and GS-13 positions. The Executive Director may authorize exceptions to the minimum area of consideration to meet agency needs.

      (d) The Director, Office of Human Resources, may approve exceptions to the minimum area of consideration in cases where there are unusual circumstances which provide compelling business reasons to do so, provided those reasons meet the regulatory requirements of 5 CFR 335.103, Requirement 2.

      (4) Length of Open Period for Announcements. The areas of consideration and the corresponding minimum open periods are:

      Areas of Consideration Minimum Open Period
      Government or Department-wide or all sources 21 calendar days
      Government or Department-wide
      (Limited to a single metropolitan or commuting area, e.g.,(Washington, D.C.)
      14 calendar days
      FHWA-wide 21 calendar days
      FHWA Headquarters- wide
      (Includes field offices located in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area)
      14 calendar days
      Resource Center, Division or Office-wide 10 calendar days

  10. How do applicants apply for merit promotion consideration? Specific application procedures will be stated on the vacancy announcement. Applicants must adhere to those procedures to be considered for the vacancy.

  11. How are candidates evaluated?

    1. Eligibility. All applications will be screened by the servicing personnel office to determine whether minimum qualification requirements prescribed by OPM, pertinent selective factors, and other eligibility requirements are met for the vacant position.

    2. Rating of Candidates

      (1) All qualified candidates will be further evaluated on the relevance of their experience, education, training, performance, honors, awards and outside activities in relation to each KSA.

      (2) Selecting officials, in consultation with the servicing personnel specialist, will determine whether the qualified candidates are further evaluated against the KSA's established for the position by an ad hoc rating panel, a subject-matter expert (SME), or other appropriate individual. The selecting official may also designate himself/herself as the SME if he or she feels sufficiently familiar with the requirements of the position to serve in that capacity. Regardless of who evaluates the qualified candidates against the KSA's, his/her evaluation will be documented in the case file. For a technical career track position, the qualified candidates are evaluated by a peer/expert review panel and a management panel against the KSA's developed from the appropriate technical career track evaluation criteria.

      (3) The selecting official will choose from among the best qualified candidates.

      (4) Nonpromotion candidates, who are not required to compete, (see Actions Excluded from Merit Promotion Procedures) may also be rated and ranked by a rating panel, SME, or other appropriate individual, if requested by the selecting official. They will be considered to be separate from the promotion candidates. Nonpromotion candidates applying for a technical career track position will be required to be rated and ranked by the peer/expert review panel and the management panel convened for that position.

  12. How are candidates certified? Applicants are certified in the following manner:

    1. Certified candidates in different categories (i.e., promotion/nonpromotion, different grade levels) must be clearly identified in separate categories.

    2. All candidates placed on the certificate will be listed in alphabetical order, regardless of whether a rating panel is held.

    3. Only those candidates rated as Best Qualified will be considered for selection.

    4. The selection certificate is valid for 90 days. However, the Director, Office of Human Resources, may grant extensions for international positions where medical and security clearances are required, and for other cases where there are compelling business reasons to do so.

  13. What are the selection procedures?

    1. Selecting Official. The Federal Highway Administrator is the selecting official for Division Administrator and Resource Center Operations Manager positions, and for any positions above the GS-15 grade level. The appropriate unit manager or his/her designee is the selecting official for all other positions under his/her jurisdiction.

    2. Action by the Selecting Official

      (1) The selecting official is responsible for taking timely action on the certificate(s), in accordance with instructions contained on the certificate.

      (2) Upon receipt of the certificate, the selecting officials are encouraged to interview their top candidates, and have the flexibility to distinguish among candidates and determine who should be interviewed. Interviews may be conducted personally or by other means. The selecting official may also request that other qualified individuals interview the candidates.

      (3) The selecting official may choose any candidate from among those who have been certified and rated as best qualified, based on his or her own judgment of how well candidates will perform in the position being filled. The selecting official will ensure that fair consideration has been given to all candidates.

    3. Clearances

      (1) Unit managers must secure the concurrence of the Executive Director before making a final selection for a position at or above the GS-14 level. In addition, Resource Center Directors must have first obtained the concurrence of the appropriate Core Business Unit Program Manager or Service Business Unit Director on the selection.

      (2) The Director of Administration must concur with the selection of any Financial or Administrative Manager or Personnel Officer.

      (3) The Chief Counsel and appropriate officials in the Office of the Secretary must approve the employment or promotion of attorneys at any grade level.

  14. How long are promotion records kept? Servicing personnel offices will maintain the Merit Promotion file for 2 years, or until the time limit for grievances has elapsed in accordance with Title 5, CFR, Part 335.

  15. What information is made available to applicants?

    1. The personnel office is responsible for notifying all applicants regarding the disposition of their application for an announced vacancy. This should normally be done within 2 weeks after the selection is made.

    2. An employee having questions or concerns about the filling of a particular vacancy should first discuss them with his/her supervisor or servicing personnel office. If not satisfied, the employee may file a grievance under the procedures set forth in PMM Chapter 11, Disciplinary Actions, Adverse Actions or Grievances. Nonselection from a group of properly ranked and certified candidates is not an appropriate basis for an informal complaint or grievance. There is no right of appeal to OPM.

    3. If an employee believes that his or her nonselection under the merit promotion process was based on a nonmerit reason, such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or retaliation, the employee may consult with an Equal Employment Opportunity counselor about the discrimination complaint process. Any discrimination complaint should be filed in accordance with 29 CFR Part 1614, Federal Sector Equal Employment Opportunity.

  16. Can the promotion files be audited? Merit promotion files are subject to post audit by OPM, DOT, and FHWA as provided by statute.


Type of Action

Competitive Merit Promotion Procedures are Required for:

Actions Excluded from Merit Promotion Procedures

Promotions Non-career promotions Career Promotions 1. Promotions, when at an earlier stage the employee was selected:
  • through competition under a vacancy announcement which indicated that the position had known promotion potential
  • from an OPM register for a career-ladder position
  • under a formal training program, including upward mobility.
2. Promotion, when the job was reclassified at a higher grade based on additional duties. 3. Promotion resulting from a change in classification standards or classification error.
Temporary Promotions Over 120 calendar days to a higher grade position 120 calendar days or less to a higher grade position. Extensions for up to five years, if previously filled competitively. Can become permanent without further competition under certain conditions.
Term Promotions To a higher grade position Can become permanent without further competition, if previously filled competitively.
Details--to a higher grade or to a position with greater known promotion potential than present position. Over 120 calendar days 120 calendar days or less. Extension of detail for up to one year in 120 day increments, if previously filled competitively.
Selections for training Part of authorized training agreement or promotion program or required for promotion consideration.  
Reassignment/ demotions Reassignment/demotion to position with greater promotion potential than the last position held. Reassignment/demotion to a position with no known promotion potential or having no greater promotion potential than current position.
Transfers/ reinstatements Transfer to higher grade position or one with greater known promotion potential. Reinstatement to a higher grade position than previously held in the competitive service. Reinstatement/transfer to a position at no higher grade or with no greater promotion potential than previously held in the competitive service, provided that the candidate has not been removed from the grade for performance reasons or "for cause."
  • Position changes permitted by RIF regulations.
  • Non-competitive conversion of a student in the Student Temporary Employment Program or Federal junior fellowship student to a higher grade position.
  • Non-competitive conversion of a VRA, 30% disabled veteran, physically disabled, mentally retarded, or Presidential Management Intern appointee.
  • Selection from the Reemployment Priority List.
  • Promotion or repromotion to a grade previously held on a permanent basis under a career or career conditional appointment.
  • Promotion or repromotion to a level included in an FHWA career-ladder occupation even though the employee never reached the full performance level of the career ladder.
  • Repromotion to a grade or position from which demoted without personal cause and not at the employee's request.
Corrective Action   One-time special consideration of a candidate not given proper consideration in a previous promotion action.


The positions listed below have been identified as career-ladder positions in the FHWA.

The listing reflects the maximum potential grade level to which promotions may be effected under career promotion procedures. The listing should not be construed as a commitment to promote employees who occupy these positions within the indicated grade range.

At any time, unit managers may elect to competitively announce a vacant career-ladder position at or below the established maximum grade level.



GS-020 Community Planner 5 12
GS-028 Environmental Protection Specialist 5 12
GS-110 Economist 5 12
GS-200 Personnel Management Positions
(includes GS-201, GS-235, & GS-260)
5 12
GS-203 Personnel Clerk/Assistant 3 6
GS-303 Program Clerk/Assistant 4 6
GS-305 Mail and/or File Clerk 1 4
GS-312 Clerk-Stenographer 2 5
GS-326 Office Automation Clerk 1 4
GS-334 Computer Programmer/Systems Analyst 5 12
GS-335 Computer Aid/Computer Technician 3 5
GS-341 Administrative Assistant/Officer 5 12
GS-343 Management and Program Analyst 5 12
GS-360 Equal Opportunity Specialist 5 12
GS-500 Financial Management Positions
(includes GS-501, GS-510, & GS-560)
5 12
GS-503 Fiscal Clerk/Assistant 3 6
GS-525 Accounting Technician 4 6
GS-540 Voucher Examiner 2 6
GS-800 Professional Engineering Positions
(includes GS-801, GS-810, GS-830, GS-850 & GS-855)
5 12
GS-802 Engineering Technician (Federal Lands) 2 7
GS-818 Engineering Draftsman 4 6
GS-1000 Information and Arts Positions
(includes GS-1001, 1035, 1082, 1083 & 1084)
5 12
GS-1102 Contract and Procurement Specialist 5 12
GS-1170 Realty Specialist 5 12
GS-1531 Statistical Clerk/Assistant 3 6
GS-2100 Transportation Positions
(includes GS-2101, GS-2123, & GS-2125)
5 12
GS-2102 Transportation Clerk/Assistant 3 6
Page last modified on June 27, 2016
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