Trump clasping hands

Expert: OPM-GSA merge will give Trump more control

The current White House is known to want to break up and rearrange many parts of the federal agency structure—and in recent weeks it has signaled that, if possible, it intends to move ahead on plans to merge the Office of Personnel Management into the General Services Administration and the Executive Office of the President. The plan’s backers, including the president and the current head of OPM, Margaret Weichert, appear to aim at the dismantling of the four-decades-old top HR and management agency. Most alarmingly to critics, the White House has broadcast that it believes it has adequate authority to move ahead with much of the plan without consulting Congress. This week, Nathan Abse speaks to Saint Louis University political scientist Kenneth Warren about the White House plan—and the administration’s ongoing goal of reducing what it sees as redundancy and waste in whole components of the federal civil service.

Q&A with Kenneth Warren

Can you comment on the White House’s announced intent to deconstruct what they see as a wasteful OPM—without Congress’s input—and to put OPM’s policy piece under the White House and its HR / IT components under the Government Services Administration?

Warren: My take on this and moves like this about that particular agency—OPM—is that the president probably does have the power to do much of what he wants to do, without Congress. This is the kind of thing where his plans to alter government agencies are on the firmest footing, by the way, because on things like this—having to do with personnel—he has more power on such items under existing law. He can’t do just “anything,” but he has more power here: things to do with personnel administration. There is law on this.

Do you see it also as a way to get more direct power over the federal agencies, with less protection for federal employees, as many in the federal unions and other critics say?

I agree with those critics, yes. This is a certain White House, and it has attacked many federal agencies and their power already. He wants to have more power over the federal bureaucracy. OPM currently defends and keeps up legal protections for feds. But remember—something like OPM must defend federal bureaucrats, anyway. I am just not sure he can actually get rid of those protections—no. But he can throw a wrench into things. And that certainly could be part of what he is doing here, as far as the power of federal agencies and their employees is concerned.

*For the full interview view the April 15 issue of FEND.


Reader comments

Thu, Apr 18, 2019 HR Retired Fed

Reducing redundancy all over Government is a great idea. Dismantling OPM is not! One of the primarily reasons OPM was created was to protect the merit principles across the Federal Government. Melding this function with GSA won't help. Also, just be mindful that OPM processes well over 100,000 retirement cases per year and at the same time manages ongoing retirements for millions of people and their survivors!

Wed, Apr 17, 2019 Luke

Thirty-year veteran of civil service here: four departments, five agencies. Nathan Abse is a fear-monger who apparently loves 'redundancy and waste' and is part of 'the resistance' for the sake of resistance. OPM has been a train-wreck for at least two decades. Which private sector agency works under a terminally unmanageable backlog of retirements and must take three to SIX MONTHS to process ONE RETIREMENT? Restructure: sooner than later.

Wed, Apr 17, 2019

reducing what it sees as redundancy and waste in whole components of the federal civil service. I was in the Federal Government and saw redundancy and waste everywhere. This change will help the tax payers and save money. Who doesn't like to save money.

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