After more than two years of contention with federal employee groups and members of Congress, the Trump administration has decided to stop pursuing its controversial plan to do away with the Office of Personnel Management and divide its responsibilities between the General Services Administration and Executive Office of the President, an OPM official confirmed to Federal Times.
The decision to reverse course, which was announced in an email to staff and first reported by Federal News Network, comes after administration leadership put forth concerted effort to convince lawmakers and the federal workforce that the change was necessary to maintain and improve personnel management operations.
But members of Congress on both sides of the aisle questioned whether officials had done the work necessary to prove that dismantling OPM was the best way to achieve efficiency gains, and even went so far as to bar the use of any appropriated funds to facilitate a transfer of responsibilities until after a third-party study had been conducted.
That study is not slated to be completed until next year.
In addition to congressional opposition, the administration faced unflattering watchdog appraisals of its efforts to transition, which found that officials had made misleading statements to Congress and pursued decisions that ended up costing taxpayers more money.
The White House also faced the departure of Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert, who temporarily led OPM in an acting capacity and spearheaded much of the administration’s messaging on why the merger should take place.
“The proposal was a clear attempt to politicize the civil service by abolishing the agency that ensures federal employees are hired and fired, promoted and demoted based on skill and merit, not on political loyalty tests,” American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.
But federal unions still worry about ongoing efforts to change the civil service, such as orders to make the firing of employees more expedient, restrict collective bargaining and move policy-focused employees out of the competitive service.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.