OPM Receives First Confirmed Director Since July 2015

Late last week, the U.S. Senate confirmed by voice vote Jeff Pon, President Trump’s choice to serve as the new director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency tasked with overseeing the administrative and human resources needs of the federal workforce.

Pon’s nomination had been held-up by internal committee disagreements for more than four months, with Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC), seizing the nomination as an opportunity to express his displeasure over OPM’s alleged failure to respond “to document requests regarding officials' 2013 decision to allow congressional employees to purchase health insurance on the D.C. Small Business Health Options Plan exchange and receive an employer subsidy.”

However, in recent months, Sen. Johnson indicated OPM’s willingness to cooperate increased, and he ultimately agreed to allow the vote to send the nomination to the full Senate, which also voted last night to confirm the nomination of OPM Deputy Director Michael Regas.

As summarized by Government Executive, “OPM's last permanent director, Katherine Archuleta, resigned in July 2015 and since then, the agency has been led by a series of acting officials. Kathleen McGettigan has been in charge on an acting basis during the Trump administration. The White House initially nominated George Nesterczuk, who helped develop a failed attempt to implement pay for performance at the Defense Department during the George W. Bush administration, but Nesterczuk withdrew his name from consideration after a backlash from federal employee groups and background check concerns.”

Government employee groups welcomed the news, with many expressing relief that OPM would have its first full-time director in years. The Government Manager’s Coalition, a group of five federal employee associations representing more than 200,000 federal employees, sent a letter to HSGAC six months ago, shortly after Pon’s nomination was announced, noting that “OPM, the agency tasked with overseeing the federal civil service, has been without a Senate-confirmed Director for more than two years.  While the agency has certainly undertaken good work in the interim, operating without a clearly established direction should not become the standard state of affairs, particularly for such an integral component of the federal workforce.”

According to the letter, Pon has the background necessary to step in and provide crucial guidance to the agency and to federal workers,” specifically highlighting Pon’s “background as a human resources expert, tenure as Chief Human Capital Officer at the Department of Energy and the Deputy Director of eGovernment at OPM, promise a broad and relevant skill-set ideal for filling this crucial government role.”

Bill Valdez, President of the Senior Executives Association, praised Pon’s selection and called his confirmation, “very timely, because the Administration is set to unveil its President’s Management Agenda (PMA) later in March. We need a strong and seasoned leader at the helm of OPM to manage what will no doubt be extraordinarily complex proposals affecting the federal workforce coming out of the PMA.”

 

 

 

Posted in From the Hill

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