With the administration’s proposal to break up OPM dominating much of the attention on federal workforce matters so far this year, there has been little movement on other personnel policy initiatives, although sponsors continue to look for opportunities to advance them.
The administration has not actively pushed to weaken employee appeal rights government-wide as was done in a 2017 law applying only at the VA that was seen as setting precedent. Bills (S-1463, HR-3348) recently were introduced to do so but there also has been considerable pushback against the VA law for resulting in disproportionate amounts of discipline against lower-level employees. Also, at a recent House hearing several whistleblowers said that law was not achieving its other main aim of better protecting them from retaliation
Also on the back burner is the administration’s desire to tie pay more closely to market demand and to employee performance; a study is underway but is not expected to yield even a report until next year.
The only formal legislative proposal from the administration—apart from the one to break up the OPM—involves widening several special hiring authorities and providing that employees would not gain full appeal rights until they have completed their probationary periods regardless of the length of those periods.
Meantime, Democrats have used their control of the House to push initiatives including to return the standard probationary period at DoD to the one year that applies at other agencies; a 2015 law pushed by congressional Republicans had set the standard at DoD at two years. Repeal language is in the House version of the annual DoD budget measure (HR-2500) that could come to a vote there soon. The House DoD bill further would require a study that could lay the groundwork for repealing another change in that same 2015 law, to make performance the top retention factor in RIFs—although again only at DoD. And among the amendments planned for when the House takes up that bill is one that would provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave government-wide.
The Senate already has passed its version of that bill (S-1790) without any of those provisions, however. Differences between the two bills would have to be resolved in a later House-Senate conference.