GAO has found a relative few instances of political appointees converting to career positions, adding that rules allowing such conversions under certain conditions generally were followed. The practice, commonly called “burrowing in,” is a perennial issue in the federal workforce that draws added attention in a presidential election year when concerns arise about the potential for supporters of an outgoing party thwarting a new administration of the other party from within the government. Career employees also keep an eye on it since most of the positions involved are at middle and upper levels, reducing their promotional potential. However, GAO in a review of 30 major agencies over 2010-2015 found only 69 conversions, all but 17 of which received the needed approval from OPM; in those cases, agencies generally said they didn’t request approval because of the complexity of that process. OPM later review those conversions and deemed only four improper. The findings essentially mirror those of a 2010 GAO report covering 2005 to 2009 that identified just 117 conversions at the GS-12 level or higher; all were deemed proper except seven, with records not sufficient to make a call on 18 others.
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