White House Taps Civil Service Reform Veteran to Lead OPM

George Nesterczuk was the architect of a failed effort to establish a performance-based pay system during the Bush administration.

The White House late Tuesday announced it would tap George Nesterczuk to become director of the Office of Personnel Management. Nesterczuk is a longtime advocate of overhauling the civil service system and was a key player in a contentious effort to impose a performance-based personnel system at the Defense and Homeland Security departments during the George W. Bush administration.

The ill-fated National Security Personnel System ultimately failed after a hard-fought battle with federal employee unions.

Nesterczuk, now a consultant, was senior advisor to the OPM director for the Defense Department from 2004-2006. He previously had served as staff director of the House Government Reform Committee’s panel on civil service and as a senior official in the Reagan administration, holding positions in OPM, Defense, and the Transportation Department.

Here’s how Government Executive described Nesterczuk in a 2006 magazine profile:

The Ukrainian-American arch conservative doesn't engage in red vs. blue political battles. Instead, he has spent his career as a strategist in a decidedly less glamorous campaign, struggling to reshape the civil service . . . He sees himself as standing up for voiceless high-performing government executives and managers who want flexibility to hire and fire, to dole out or restrict pay raises, and who aren't represented by unions.

In the profile, Ron Sanders, then the top personnel advisor to Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, described Nesterczuk as “one of the true warriors in civil service reform . . . He's sort of a Russian Don Quixote. He's been tilting at windmills since I first met him in the late '80s.”

At the time, unions viewed Nesterczuk as an ideologue bent on reducing their influence. The same 2006 story noted that, “in some circles, Nesterczuk is more likely to be compared to another literary figure: Harry Potter's nemesis, Lord Voldemort.”