Administration of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council was returned exclusively to the Office of Personnel Management, the agency announced July 20, after responsibility for the council had been split between the personnel office and General Services Administration for two years.
“I’m pleased that we are restoring these functions at OPM as part of our commitment to reinvigorating the CHCO Council,” said OPM Director Kiran Ahuja in a press release.
“The CHCO Council is an invaluable collaborative resource for OPM and the federal government. OPM is committed to partnering closely with CHCOs to help solve critical human capital management challenges that face our federal workforce and I look forward to leading the council as we work to rebuild, strengthen and support the federal workforce.”
The CHCO Council serves as an advisory and collaborative body for federal human capital officers to help improve and standardize the federal approach to human capital management. The director of OPM serves as the chairman of the board, with the deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget serving as vice chair and a presidentially appointed executive director coordinating the activities of the council.
The Trump White House initially moved administration of the council to GSA as part of yearslong efforts to break apart OPM and move most of its functions under GSA. That merger ultimately failed after strong opposition from Congress and employee stakeholders.
The return of full CHCO Council responsibility to OPM represents another complete reversal from Trump administration personnel policy under the Biden administration.
“GSA has enjoyed working with and supporting the CHCO Council these past few years, and we are supportive of reuniting strategic and administrative functions of the CHCO Council,” said GSA Deputy Administrator Katy Kale in the news release.
“We look forward to building upon our partnership with OPM in other ways as we continue to serve the federal workforce together.”
A recent National Academy of Public Administration report mandated by Congress noted that the CHCO Council has had diminished influence in recent years and was further destabilized by inconsistent leadership at OPM.
“OPM’s level of engagement with the CHCO Council has diminished over the years; meetings are infrequent and largely consist of sharing of information by OPM. The statutorily required annual reports are not widely shared and at times, inconsistently prepared,” that report said.
“From a business model perspective, OPM leadership has viewed the Council as a communications arm for the agency more so than a partner to solve problems. In recent years, the CHCOs have voted on sets of regulatory reforms they would like OPM to pursue but have gained little traction on these reforms.”
The CHCO Council itself had no formal meetings overseen by the head of OPM for nearly a year during the pandemic, though members still met informally, where they set their own meeting agendas.
And though the council resumed formal meetings in February, the July 20 meeting was the first overseen by a Senate-confirmed OPM director in over a year.
OPM intends to build up both the budget and staff for the council after it dwindled in recent years.
The Biden administration is in the process of updating the CHCO Council charter to strengthen the organization’s ability to accomplish its mission.
“As a chief human capital officer with over 25 years of public service who has served in large and small agencies, and incorporated best practices from various personnel systems, the one common theme that cuts across this federal landscape is that employees perform the best when they have the resources they need; the autonomy to innovate; and the respect of their leaders and their peers,” said Ray Limon, deputy assistant secretary for human capital and diversity and CHCO at the Department of the Interior and the co-chair of the working group established to review changes to the council charter.
“For CHCOs, there is no better forum than the CHCO Council where we can promote and recommend policies based on our collective experiences and provide feedback to leaders in the Executive and Legislative branches. We are glad that OPM is actively rebuilding the council and believe this will be aided by the consolidation of CHCO Council operations and leadership under OPM.”
Jessie Bur covers the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees.