fedweek.com | us congress

A House committee has started Congress’s first close look at the recently issued President’s Management Agenda, part of what the administration projects as a major overhaul of federal employment policies.

A hearing in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee follows several recent pitches by administration officials, including OPM director Jeff Pon, for revising basic workplace policies, some of which would require changes in law. These include how employee performance is evaluated and rewarded or not; replacing across-the-board annual raises with pay more targeted to top performers and to high-demand occupations; strengthening management’s hand in disciplinary actions; and further limiting union bargaining rights.

They represent potential elements of what the administration and some on Capitol Hill call a much-needed overhaul of the 40-year-old Civil Service Reform Act. Those ideas have not been presented in detail, although Pon recently indicated that specifics would be coming soon with an intent to have Congress take action before November’s elections. Other elements of the agenda could be carried out administratively, such as increasing automation while “reskilling” employees to perform what the administration considers higher-value work.

One element sure to be a point of scrutiny as that effort moves ahead is reorganization of agencies, which could mean closing offices and facilities and moving or eliminating jobs. Democrats have been asking for details, now more than a year since OMB started the process with a memo calling on agencies to produce such plans and indicated that specifics would be in the White House budget proposal of early this year.

However, while neither that document nor the more recently issued management agenda document contained such details, some agencies have been taking steps that some on Capitol Hill interpret to be the start of reorganizations contrary to a budget law enacted in March, which barred major changes without the approval of Congress.