Legislation introduced in the House Tuesday would not only establish credentials necessary for all future Office of Personnel Management directors, but also formally dictate the agency’s role in leading human resources through data-driven and modern policy.

Under the bill, introduced by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., a nominee for OPM director would have to have prior human capital experience and be chosen without regard for political affiliation.

The president would also have to provide Congress with written rationale for any decision to remove a Senate-confirmed director. That requirement mirrors similar language in pending inspector general legislation that would push the president to provide more substantive cause for removing a watchdog official.

But the legislation would also outline in U.S. Code that OPM is the designated agency to “ensure the proper application of merit system principles for all Federal civilian human resource systems and employees.” Current law only dictates that OPM is an independent agency, with a seal and headquarters in Washington, D.C.

That existing vague definition of the agency left open a path for the Trump administration to attempt to transfer many of OPM’s authorities to the General Services Administration and the Executive Office of the President, a move that was resoundingly criticized and eventually blocked by Congress.

“We successfully stopped the previous administration from abolishing OPM, now we have a responsibility to rebuild and modernize this agency,” Connolly said.

“Federal employees are the crown jewel of government, and we must build a human resources agency nimble and prepared to help us attract and retain the talent our nation needs to provide vital services today and into the future.”

The bill would also ensure a continuity of expertise at OPM by establishing a career chief management officer position responsible for advising the director and aligning policies across the agency with its overall mission. Such a position could prove essential if the high turnover rate of agency directors over the past few years continues.

Directors will also appoint an advisory committee made up of members of the public sector, private sector, academia and federal employee organizations to explore new human capital strategies and best practices. This committee would report to both the OPM Director and Congress annually.

“The legislation — cosponsored by Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA, and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. — would implement some key legislative recommendations made in the National Academy of Public Administration’s report ‘Elevating Human Capital: Reframing the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Leadership Imperative,’ released in March,” said Ken Thomas, national president for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, in a statement.

“These recommendations are long overdue, and it’s heartening to see Chairman Connolly’s leadership in following through and translating them into legislative language.”

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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