By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268

Maryland congressman calls OPM-GSA merger 'illegal'

At a testy House Oversight hearing June 27, lawmakers from both parties heaped criticism on the Office of Personnel Management for what they're describing as a lack of responsiveness to their requests for documents in support of a plan to merge OPM into the General Services Administration.

The hearing of the Government Operations subcommittee included testimony from OPM on the planned merger as well as testimony from GSA and FBI representatives on unrelated issues regarding changes to a longstanding plan to relocate the FBI's downtown headquarters and documents from GSA regarding decisions on President Donald Trump's lease of a government-owned building for a luxury hotel.

But it was OPM Deputy Chief of Staff Stephen Billy who drew the most open scorn from members of both parties, particularly with regard to OPM's redaction of a legal analysis to support the administration's plan to fold most of OPM into GSA.

"Mr. Billy, you're not doing your job. There is a stall," said Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.). "You seem quite ill prepared for answers to questions you should anticipate would come from this committee," Hice added.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told Billy he was "embarrassed" to see headlines warning about potential layoffs or furloughs at OPM just after his own visit to the agency for a briefing on technology issues.

The news of furloughs came after OPM shared with Congress documents describing a $23 million shortfall at the agency for FY2020, which could lead to 150 furloughs. Initially, the administration figured on a $70 million budget gap arising from the move of OPM's National Background Investigation Bureau to the Department of Defense. However, DOD is going to have to pay OPM more than $42 million in services, which helped closed the gap, as did other cost shifting.

An appropriations bill that passed the House this week included multiple provisions designed to thwart the planned merger, including one from Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee, to block any reduction in force arising from a funding shortfall at OPM. That bill also closes the funding gap in the short term with a $39 million increase.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said that "my first take on it, having looked at some of the legal authorities, is that the proposal is likely illegal" and wondered why "OPM made a very significant decision to dismantle itself or to dissolve itself without first obtaining any formal opinion as to the legality of this decision."

Billy stated that "the legal analysis of what statutory authorities exist today to enact parts of the transaction are still ongoing."

The plan to fold the back-office functions of OPM into GSA while creating a new White House office to house federal workforce policymaking has drawn strong ire from Democrats on Capitol Hill and notably very little enthusiasm from Republicans.

"From our point of view, this half-baked proposal is going to be dead on arrival here on Capitol Hill," Connolly said. He also noted that he has not received documents from OPM on its legal analysis, cost-benefit analysis and timeline for the planned merger.

"These aren't intrusive requests," Connolly said.

Reader comments

Fri, Jul 5, 2019

The behavior of congress and senate is illegal. We just do not need a bunch of phony self-centered bickering political minions.

Fri, Jul 5, 2019

Look, until a full analysis is done of OPM, and if it should be folded into another agency or stand-alone, let's stop this senseless bickering! The remaining Gov't-wide OPM functions are critical and should be examined closely before making any harmful change!

Fri, Jul 5, 2019

When will congress do anything productive? Probably never, bickering and stalemate is the principal operation procedure. Some many examples of political ineptness!

Tue, Jul 2, 2019

If Opm Merges with Gsa then it leaves employees volunerable to theft of funds because Gsa has more power to pursuade officials. Please reconsider sharing funds and not stealing them from employees.

Tue, Jul 2, 2019

To the elected minions and their more advanced form the idiots, leave OPM intact and allow the great folks there to do their mission of the agency. Do the elected idiots have anything better to do? Apparently not!

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Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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