As Weichert Releases OPM Reorganization Plan, Stakeholders Voice Concerns
Last week the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Acting Director Margaret Weichert and Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Acting Director Russ Vought released the legislative proposal and business case for transferring much of OPM’s duties to the General Services Administration (GSA) and OMB. While some elements of the plan received praise, criticisms have also arisen ahead of today’s hearing in the House Subcommittee on Government Operations within the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
The administration’s “case for change” outlines a financially insolvent OPM due to the agency’s loss of approximately 81 percent of their revolving fund revenue resulting from the transfer of background investigations to the Department of Defense.
The administration’s legislative proposal further argues that “agencies will benefit from GSA helping them to obtain more strategic and comprehensive support for their needs.”
Under the proposal, GSA will create a new Personnel Service to house human resources and employee lifecycle management shared service offerings.
The Senior Executives Association (SEA) has spoken out against the move. Executive Director Jason Briefel told GovExec, “Our biggest concern about this proposal writ large is the threat that it represents for the statutory independence of OPM and maintaining an apolitical civil service. Even if you have a GSA official who takes on that duty of the current OPM director who is confirmed [by the Senate], they’re not independent. They’re subservient to the GSA administrator, who answers to the president.”
SEA President Bill Valdez expressed similar concerns with the administration’s proposal in a letter to Congressional Committees for the oversight hearing.
“Maintaining OPM’s role in [preserving merit systems principles] is of absolute and paramount importance, and changes to that can only occur through Congress, not the administration via fiat,” Valdez wrote. “The administration to date has not provided clarity about what, if any, independence OPM would maintain should it be folded under GSA. The OPM director is independent from the president; the GSA administrator is not.”
Valdez did also note that financial concerns surrounding the agency are legitimate and that OPM has struggled over the years to deliver on core missions. However, he does not feel the merger with GSA is an effective means of solving these dilemmas.
J. David Cox, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees, also expressed concerns with the administration’s plans to move functions to OMB.
Cox noted to GovExec, “An individual in the Office of Federal Workforce Policy in OMB will have primary responsibility for the development of personnel policy and regulations. This position will not require Senate confirmation, and as such, will not be directly answerable to Congress . . . This represents a serious risk to the political independence of the civil service.”
Cox joined Ken Thomas, National President of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees; Linda Springer, former Director of OPM; Triana McNeil, Acting Director of Strategic Issues at the Government Accountability Office; Norbert Vint, Acting Inspector General of the OPM; and current Acting Director Weichert at a hearing on the proposal today before House Subcommittee on Government Operations within the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
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