OPM Gets a Permanent Director After Nearly 3 Years of Acting Leaders

The Senate confirmed by voice vote Wednesday night President Trump’s nomination of Jeff Pon to be director of the Office of Personnel Management, officially ending a months-long standoff over his nomination.

OPM's last permanent director, Katherine Archuleta, resigned in July 2015 and since then, the agency has been led by a series of acting officials. Kathleen McGettigan has been in charge on an acting basis during the Trump administration. The White House initially nominated George Nesterczuk, who helped develop a failed attempt to implement pay for performance at the Defense Department during the George W. Bush administration, but Nesterczuk withdrew his name from consideration after a backlash from federal employee groups and background check concerns.

Pon, who most recently was the chief human resources and strategy officer at the Society for Human Resources Management, was nominated to lead OPM last September.

But at a confirmation hearing in October, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., threatened to hold up Pon's nomination until OPM responded to document requests regarding officials' 2013 decision to allow congressional employees to purchase health insurance on the D.C. Small Business Health Options Plan exchange and receive an employer subsidy.

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Johnson eventually subpoenaed OPM for the information, and last month he advanced the nomination out of committee, saying the agency has cooperated with his request.

“OPM made a substantial document production pursuant to the chairman’s subpoena,” a committee spokesperson said at the time. “Based on the production, and OPM’s continued assurances of cooperation with the inquiry, the chairman intends to move ahead with the OPM nominations.”

Pon’s confirmation comes as OPM is seeing a spike in federal employee retirement claims and as the agency attempts to outline its vision for a proposed $1 billion interagency fund to improve performance by federal workers. Later this month, the White House is expected to unveil its management agenda, which likely will include proposals to implement performance-based pay.

Partnership for Public Service President and CEO Max Stier applauded Pon’s confirmation in a statement. “Jeff Pon brings impressive and extensive leadership to OPM, and he understands both the hurdles and the importance of recruiting, hiring and training a high quality federal workforce,” Stier said. “We look forward to working alongside the new OPM director to strengthen the federal workforce and to find constructive and achievable solutions to improving many aspects of the civil service system.”

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