OPM headquarters.

OPM headquarters. Jacquelyn Martin / AP

OPM Reclaims Human Capital Council Duties Following Failed GSA Merger

The Trump administration had moved the Chief Human Capital Officers Council’s staff from OPM to GSA shortly before Congress blocked the controversial plan to merge the agencies.

The Office of Personnel Management on Tuesday announced that it had reclaimed sole responsibility for a key governmentwide human resources organization, closing the book on a controversial plan to disband the agency.

In 2018, the Trump administration unveiled a proposal to send most of OPM’s functions to the General Services Administration and its policy office to the Executive Office of the President, although it did not forward that plan to Congress until spring 2019. The proposal drew ire from across the ideological spectrum, including lawmakers in both parties, federal employee groups and good government organizations, who were critical of the lack of a cost-benefit analysis as well as the prospect of disrupting the independence of the agency tasked with upholding merit systems principles in the federal civil service.

In December 2019, Congress blocked the administration from using federal funds to implement the OPM-GSA merger, pending a study from the National Academy of Public Administration. But shortly before that legislation was enacted, Trump administration officials moved the staff and resources that support the Chief Human Capital Officers Council to GSA.

OPM Director Kiran Ahuja announced at the council’s meeting Tuesday that the elements that had moved to GSA would return to OPM, ending the “bifurcation” of the council and beginning what she said would be an elevation of the council’s importance. OPM failed to hold any council meetings since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, although chief human capital officers continued to meet informally.

“I’m pleased that we are restoring these functions at OPM as part of our commitment to reinvigorate the CHCO Council,” Ahuja said in a statement. “The CHCO Council is an invaluable collaborative resource for OPM and the federal government. OPM is committed to partnering closely with CHCOs to help solve critical human capital management challenges that face our federal workforce and I look forward to leading the council as we work to rebuild, strengthen and support the federal workforce.”

OPM officials said they hope the CHCO Council will aid the agency as it develops new personnel policies, and improve each agency’s human capital management. Ray Limon, the Interior Department’s deputy assistant secretary for human capital and diversity and the department’s chief human capital officer, co-chairs a council working group focused on improving its operations as well as a proposal to update its charter.

“As a chief human capital officer with over 25 years of public service, who has served in large and small agencies and incorporated best practices from various personnel systems, the one common theme that cuts across this federal landscape is that employees perform the best when they have the resources they need, the autonomy to innovate and the respect of their leaders and their peers,” Limon said. “For CHCOs, there is no better forum than the CHCO Council where we can promote and recommend policies based on our collective experiences and provide feedback to leaders in the executive and legislative branches.”