After more than four years of lacking a quorum on its governing board to decide appeals, the MSPB “faces its most dire crisis since it was established by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978,” the agency said in a budget justification document sent to Congress.
The document says that as of the end of April, the backlog of appeals at the board level stood at 3,241 and that the agency “continues to receive a steady stream” of hearing officer decisions.
“Even at current funding and staffing levels, adjudicating this backlog will be an immense undertaking. Upon confirmation of three new Board members, the hiring of support staff may be required for each Board member,” it said.
President Biden has nominated federal employment attorney Cathy Harris to become chairwoman. With one member, the MSPB could again issue full reports on federal employment issues rather than the limited white papers it has been publishing, but at least two members would be needed to begin deciding appeals.
Harris has not yet had even a confirmation hearing, though, and no nominations have been made for the other two seats.
The report also said that even with at least two members in place “history suggests there will be significant additional workload for MSPB” since on average a tenth of appeals decided by the board are sent back to hearing officers for reconsideration. That share may rise, given that the new members’ “priorities may differ from those of the previous Board” and changes in law since the cases originally were decided.
It added that the lack of a quorum has prevented the agency from updating its rules to carry out those changes, and that that process also will require “significant resources” after a quorum is in place.