OPM has issued a contract to the National Academy of Public Administration to conduct a study of the potential shift of that agency’s functions to the GSA and the White House as the Trump administration has proposed.
The proposal seeks to move into the GSA OPM’s operating functions—administration of the retirement and insurance plans, mostly—and its personnel consulting services for other agencies, while giving its policy-making functions to a newly created office in OMB. That has met with a reaction generally ranging from indifferent to hostile on Capitol Hill and in the federal community, with practical objections being raised to GSA taking on tasks very different from its current role and concerns being raised about politicizing the civil service by putting policy decisions in an arm of the White House.
The study was ordered by a budget measure enacted last year that was widely seen as designed to delay the concept indefinitely, if not reject it outright. Afterward there were reports that the administration would abandon the idea and not even commission the study, but the administration repeated the proposal in its most recent budget submission and now OPM has issued the contract to perform the study.
Topics to be studies, according to NAPA, include OPM’s duties under law and the challenges it faces in carrying them out; the functions it performs that are not required by law, the justification for them and the challenges it faces in carrying them out; options for addressing both sets of challenges, “including an analysis of the benefits, costs, and feasibility of each option and the effect of each on labor-management agreements”; the views of stakeholders “including other federal agencies, non-federal entities representing customers or intended beneficiaries of OPM services, and such individual customers and potential beneficiaries”; and more.
It is unclear how long such a study might consume but it likely would be many months and the budget law requires a series of steps after the report is issued that likely would push any possible action into next year at least.
The study would not affect the already-completed transfer of background investigation responsibilities from OPM to DoD.