Beleaguered Feds Likely to Lose Personnel Chief Within Two Weeks


Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry’s term expires in less than two weeks, and he is expected to announce his departure from OPM soon, Government Executive has learned. His exit would come just as federal employees at a number of agencies start to feel the effects of sequestration, including furloughs.

Federal law states the OPM director serves a four-year term. Berry assumed office April 13, 2009. OPM did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Berry is eligible to be re-nominated to the position, but recent media reports have suggested he is likely to become the U.S. ambassador to Australia.

Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, a federal employee advocacy group, said Berry’s likely departure would be emblematic of a systemic problem with leadership turnover in government.      

“It’s great that he’s actually spent four years at the job,” Stier said. “But another four would be even better.”

Stier highlighted OPM’s renewed commitment to the annual federal viewpoint survey -- the survey included a record number of participants in 2012 -- and its new Pathways Programs to bring students and recent graduates into government as critical pieces of Berry’s legacy. Stier added Berry would be leaving at a time of “incredible stress” on the federal workforce and his successor must be able to lead, both as the chief talent person across government and as the head of an agency.

“I hope [the replacement] is someone who can do that job, who can really engage the very top leadership across the government, from Cabinet secretaries to the White House,” Stier said. 

The deputy director position at OPM is currently vacant, meaning one of five associate directors stands in line to serve as interim director. Chief Operating Officer Chuck Grimes could also be a candidate to temporarily replace Berry, or President Obama could choose to tap someone outside the agency.

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