Lawmakers Ask If Policy Limiting ‘Burrowing In’ Of Political Appointees Has Worked

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., joined three other Republicans in making the request. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., joined three other Republicans in making the request. Ross D. Franklin/AP

Four Republican lawmakers on Monday asked the Government Accountability Office to review whether a 2010 policy designed to limit the “burrowing in” of political appointees to career civil service jobs has been effective.

The letter from Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and John Thune, R-S.D., and Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, also asked for a general review of the extent to which appointees converted to career positions over the period of June 2009 to October 2015. The lawmakers noted that GAO has not released a report on burrowing in since 2010, and said it is time for an update.

“The possibility that political appointees are ‘burrowing in’ – through favoritism in the selection process, effectively taking civil positions that would otherwise be open to the public and awarded based on merit – may affect the integrity of the merit-based federal workforce,” they wrote. “Therefore, we are writing to request that GAO conduct a study to ensure that federal agencies and full-time commissions are following appropriate authorities and proper procedures in making conversions of non-career to career positions.”

The Office of Personnel Management 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.

They recommended that GAO conduct regular reviews of political- to career conversions in the future. 

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