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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

A Gray Day Outside OPM: Employees React to Agency's Diminished Role Under Reorganization Plan

By Mark Van Scyoc / Shutterstock.com

Employees at the Office of Personnel Management appeared glum on this rainy, gray Friday, the day after the Trump administration unveiled a wide-reaching reorganization plan that would slice OPM into pieces.

In lunch hour on-the-street interviews with Government Executive, the few who agreed to speak said many employees were worried about the plan that calls for transferring OPM’s security clearance functions to the Pentagon, its insurance and retirement benefits services to the General Services Administration, and its employee services functions to political appointees at the White House.

“From their facial expressions and body language, I could tell people were upset,” said one.

“People were shocked,” said a paralegal in the retirement division. But mostly “they want to make sure their job is not affected.”

Another OPM paralegal said: “Mr. Trump is being true to his words about draining the swamp. However, I don’t think it’s feasible or sensible. GSA hasn’t done a very good job of managing their own responsibilities. OPM’s responsibilities are multi-faceted, so moving them would bring more bureaucracy and more waste.”

This employee approved of some of the plan’s streamlining ideas, particularly in reducing information technology redundancies. “But we don’t need GSA to take this on,” she said.

Though several who spoke doubted all employees had read the plan, one said, “I looked at it, we all did, but I’m just trying to keep my head down because you hear so much” about what could happen. “When it happens, tell me,” he said.

Though some 15 passersby were approached on the public sidewalk at 1900 E Street Northwest in front of OPM’s Washington headquarters, most declined to speak, some dutifully referring the reporter to the communications office. “Absolutely not,” said one. “It’s not the greatest time for me to be talking” to a reporter, said another.

Soon a security guard emerged to obtain the reporter’s identity, but all parties remained civil.

Charles S. Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books, and organizational media strategies.

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