GSA leader Emily Murphy and OPM chief Jeff Pon testify before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee Thursday.

GSA leader Emily Murphy and OPM chief Jeff Pon testify before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee Thursday. Tim Grant/OPM

OPM May Scrap the Most Significant Change in Its Reorg Plan

Agency may not move itself into the executive office of the president after all, OPM director says, but plans unilateral action on other parts of the reorganization this year.

The Trump administration is moving forward with initial steps in reshuffling its responsibilities for personnel management, as it called for in its recently unveiled government reorganization plan, but is now suggesting it may not implement some of the most significant proposals at all.

As part of the first phase of the reforms, the Office of Personnel Management plans to shift its Human Resources Solutions division to the General Services Administration. Functions that would be relocated include OPM’s fee-for-service offerings such as HR consulting, training, occupational assessment tests and the job vacancy listing site USAJobs. The details of the changes are being sorted out by task forces within OPM and GSA, Jeff Pon and Emily Murphy, the respective leaders of the two agencies, testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Reform Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management subcommittee on Thursday.

Those groups are reviewing what actions they can take unilaterally, but Pon and Murphy were confident most of that shift can occur without legislation. Some areas, such as USAJobs, the online repository of federal vacancies across government, may be statutorily tied to OPM, they said.

The agencies plan to start implementing the changes they have the authority to make in the next three to four months, Murphy said. Pon said he does not expect some of the more significant proposed changes to begin until 2021. That would include relocating the administration of retirement processing and federal employee benefits, including the health care marketplace that serves more than 8 million workers, retirees and their families. Subcommittee Chairman Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said the lack of concrete plans surrounding that part of the proposal came as a “news flash” to the lawmakers.

Perhaps the most controversial of the proposals is to move what remains of OPM to the White House, under the Executive Office of the President. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said she was concerned that turning OPM into a policy shop at EOP would lead to “HR policy for career staff [being] based on politics and not on merit.” Pon said his role as OPM director would remain and the oath he swore to “be a defender of merit systems” without political influence would continue to guide him.

“I’m still a direct report to the president, whether I’m across the street or not,” Pon said. He added there is “enough separation between politics” and core OPM functions “that it will continue to do what it’s supposed to do.”

After the hearing, the director, who was sworn into the position in March, said the change may not happen at all.

“We’re seeing whether or not we need legislation for that to happen because of the independence that OPM has as the civil service leader and also the civil service and merit system principles enforcement wing of the government,” Pon said. “If we can move that to the executive office of the president, we will, but I believe there needs to be more analysis as to whether or not that can happen without legislation, and if we do have legislation, does that makes sense. And we’ll decide on that after we’ve had conversations with key stakeholders, interagency coordination and so on.”

The OPM proposal has been met with widespread criticism, ranging from lawmakers to former Trump officials that helped launch the reorganization effort. Critics largely focused on the move to EOP, expressing fears it would undermine the nonpartisan civil service. Lankford said the other ideas could hold merit if they were proposed with the proper intentions.

“If these three OPM services can be transferred into GSA, it must be done to improve services to our federal workforce and to provide efficiencies from what many would equate as a merger,” Lankford said.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., the top Democrat on the subcommittee, also expressed an openness to the proposal.

“I am not afraid of big ideas and Congress cannot be reflexively dismissive simply because it changes the status quo,” Heitkamp said.

She voiced skepticism, however, that the OPM proposals would address the issues the agency faces.

“One of the critical questions in a reorg plan is what is the problem you’re seeking to solve, and how will this reorganization actually solve that problem,” Heitkamp said. “Somehow just rearranging the chairs, or who sits where, in my opinion, doesn’t solve some of the problems that I see that need to be solved within OPM.”

Pon defended the plan as one that would give the OPM director a more prominent seat at the table.

“I want to be clear on one point,” he said. “This proposal is not a secret plan to fire civil servants. Rather, it is an opportunity to elevate the federal workforce management function and maximize the operational efficiency of human capital services.”

Pressed on where the change proposals originated, Pon declined to say, noting only that it was an “iterative process” with the White House and OPM “trading information back and forth.”

Murphy said her agency was better suited to handle the transactional services such as benefits administration and retirement processing, as GSA is simply an “administrative office” and not a policy agency.

“Centralizing the transaction processing and IT for administrative functions in GSA, where it is our mission to provide excellent mission-support services, will allow for OPM to focus on their core strategic mission,” Murphy said.

OPM and GSA could run into trouble as they try to implement its plan unilaterally, as lawmakers are on the verge of passing a spending bill that would require congressional oversight for any reorganization actions taken at the agencies. Lawmakers repeatedly stressed at the hearing that the administration should engage them throughout the process, and Pon and Murphy vowed to regularly brief the committee on their plans.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.