OPM has told agencies that it is keeping a close watch out for conversions of political appointees converting to career positions, commonly called burrowing in. Such conversions are highly sensitive, since the political opposition of a current administration sees the practice as an attempt to thwart the policies of what they hope will be a new administration of a different party, while federal career employees voice resentment at the loss of opportunities to advance–most such conversions occur at middle and higher levels. In a memo, OPM told agencies that a presidential transitions law enacted earlier this year expanded OPM’s powers of review and agencies need OPM approval “prior to appointing any current or recent political appointee to a competitive, career senior executive, or non-political excepted service position, at any level.” The memo includes an expanded checklist of questions agencies would have to answer to justify such a request, and it tells agencies to “carefully review all proposed SES selections to ensure they meet merit system principles” before sending the names of proposed hires for OPM to review. That law also required OPM to issue public reports on decisions it makes on agency requests, it adds.
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