Panel Wants Details on Political Appointees Who Burrow In to Career Jobs

House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz wants more data on political appointees who convert to career positions. House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz wants more data on political appointees who convert to career positions. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

House lawmakers want more details on the political appointees agencies covert into full-time career employees, joining the Senate in seeking an investigation into the process known as “burrowing in” before the upcoming presidential transition.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to Office of Personnel Management Acting Director Beth Cobert seeking documents on every political appointee who has been converted since Sept. 2015. Chaffetz specifically requested emails and other communications that explain the outcome of each converted workers’ “pre-employment review,” as well as those who were not approved. He also asked about conversions in which the hiring agency “did not provide sufficient information to justify the employment action.”

Chaffetz said the political-to-career conversions are ripe for patronage and abuse.

“Such coversions, or burrowing, run the risk of overlooking more qualified career applicants,” Chaffetz wrote. “The Office of Personnel Management and appointing agencies must ensure each conversion of a political appointee to a career position results from a fair and open competition."

The chief House watchdog said the information he requested would aid his committee in overseeing the conversion practice. He added, “Hiring decisions must be free from political interference, legitimate and justified.”

In November, Chaffetz joined lawmakers in the Senate in requesting the Government Accountability Office review of whether a 2010 policy designed to limit the “burrowing in” of political appointees to career civil service jobs has been effective.

OPM in 2010 announced that agencies would need its permission before giving current or recent political appointees competitive or nonpolitical excepted service positions. The new policy applied to jobs at all levels. Previously, the personnel agency oversaw such moves only during election years, unless the appointees were transferring to Senior Executive Service positions.

“Since this policy went into effect more than five years ago, it is important to review its effectiveness to determine if any changes are warranted,” the lawmakers wrote.

Chaffetz asked for the information by mid-July. 

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