Federal Manager's Daily Report

With the change in presidential administrations now only seven months ahead, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman is pressing OPM for information on “burrowing in”—the practice of political appointees converting to career positions.

In a letter, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, noted that in 2009 OPM expanded the scope of cases it would review involving the appointment of current or former appointees into career jobs. Agencies since then have been required to gain OPM approval before such appointments at any level.

He asked for detailed information on such conversions since last September and explanations of the decisions to approve or disapprove conversions.

Chaffetz late last year similarly asked GAO to watch for such conversions, which are highly sensitive even though affecting only a tiny portion of the workforce. 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 mid-management levels.

GAO conducted similar reviews of the last several transitions. In each case it found some such conversions but in all but a few the appointee was deemed qualified for the job and GAO did not question the action.

In a 2010 report, for example, it said that agencies appeared to have used appropriate authorities and followed proper procedures in making 92 of the 117 conversions from political to career positions reported at the GS-12 level or higher by 26 agencies from May 2005 to May 2009.