Is reorganizing OPM the answer?
- By Adam Mazmanian
- May 15, 2019
If Congress doesn't go along with a plan to reorganize the Office of Personnel Management, the agency still plans to push ahead administratively through outsourcing.
Margaret Weichert, OPM's acting chief, told reporters at a May 14 press briefing that the Trump administration is seeking a legislative solution to the agency's funding, IT and workforce policy challenges, but absent that, there are interagency agreements, synergies and other activities that the personnel agency can pursue to outsource work to the General Services Administration and other agencies.
"We're not seeking to go outside of any authorities without legislative involvement that we do not have today, but we believe there are a number of places where we can shore up the mission with tighter collaboration with GSA," Weichert said.
These include tapping Title 40 authority to outsource some procurement activities to GSA and exploring interagency agreements to hire GSA to support OPM's IT mission through centers of excellence and other programs.
Weichert said that the administration plans to submit a legislative proposal to Congress by May 17. It's not clear how the plan will be received, particularly in the House of Representatives.
A spokesperson for Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said that the congressman was waiting for the final proposal before issuing comment.
Weichert is scheduled to testify before Connolly's subcommittee on May 21.
Connolly and other Oversight Democrats including Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) advised House appropriators of their "grave concerns" about the merger in an April 4 letter. The lawmakers were seeking a detailed plan for the reorganization, including data on staffing levels and costs as well as a "detailed analysis that clearly shows that reorganization and the merger serve to make the federal government more efficient and effective."
Weichert argued that the move of the National Background Investigations Bureau to the Department of Defense will have a dramatic impact on the agency's budget and workforce and will in the near term lead to a $70 million funding shortfall. The plan for the personnel agency to become a service organization at GSA will provide "real synergies," save money and allow OPM to modernize its retirement system technology and other legacy IT systems, she said.
Critics of the proposed reorganization say that blaming the NBIB move for OPM's funding shortfall is something of a manufactured crisis.
"To use events at OPM -- including the serious data breach and retirement processing backlogs, which stem from a variety of funding and management challenges -- as evidence of the need to break up OPM is misguided and unfair," Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, told FCW in an emailed statement.