The White House intends to divide the functions of the Office of Personnel Management and house them under separate agencies, but some lawmakers appear strongly disinclined to provide funding for such a move.
The split of OPM, which was first introduced in the White House’s June 2018 government reorganization plan, would make the Department of Defense responsible for all security clearance investigations while splitting the remainder of OPM functions between the General Services Administration and the Executive Office of the President.
The clearance investigation move has received some widespread support, but Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee sent a letter to their colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee April 4 requesting that the fiscal year 2020 budget deny the Trump administration funds for the reorganization of OPM.
“We understand that the President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020 seeks to provide $50 million to the Working Capital Fund of the General Services Administration. According to the request, this money would be ‘used for costs incurred transitioning Office of Personnel Management functions to the General Services Administration,’” the 19 representatives wrote.
“We have grave concerns about the administration’s proposal to dismantle OPM and shift its functions to GSA, the Department of Defense and the Executive Office of the President. We are also troubled that the administration has failed to adequately consult with Congress on the merger and reorganization plans.”
Critics have worried that the purpose of the merger is to give the White House more direct influence over personnel policy and to politicize the civil service.
Administration officials have said that almost no other organization operates with a separate workforce office, leading OPM to contribute to government inefficiencies.
According to the letter, administration officials have failed to provide the committee with sufficient details on the reorganization plan, justifications for its necessity or the legal authority analysis needed to conduct the merger.
Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly, D-Va., sent a letter to acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert March 22 asking her to appear before the committee May 1 to go over detailed plans for the merger that have yet to be disclosed.
In the meantime the members of the Oversight and Reform Committee asked that the Appropriations Committee include language in the FY20 funding legislation to prohibit the use of any funds for an OPM merger, unless the administration can provide detailed plans, analysis of necessary legal authorities, a cost-benefit analysis, confirmation that the administration has addressed all merger recommendations and concerns by the Offices of Inspector General, and a detailed analysis proving that the merger would actually make government more efficient and effective.
“Until the administration has provided Congress with adequate policy and legal justification for reorganizing OPM, Congress should prohibit funds to carry out any activities related to the administration’s proposal,” the representatives wrote.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.