“Piecemeal” changes won’t cut it: Newly installed OPM director Jeff Pon has reiterated the administration’s call for fundamental changes to civil service policies, saying that “We’d like to do a lot of different changes, not at the piecemeal level but as a whole.”

In an introductory video message to federal employees, Pon said, “We will come up with different types of personnel systems for occupations. There are a lot of occupations out there that desperately need a whole entire system. It’s not just about time to hire, it’s not just about how much they get paid, it’s the entire thing.”


He did not provide further details, but the overall message reflects language in the White House’s budget proposal and in the more recently published President’s Management Agenda calling for an overhaul of the Civil Service Reform Act, the basic set of federal personnel laws, now 40 years old.

Numerous exceptions and work-arounds have been carved out of that law over the years in response to special needs for certain occupations or agencies. Pon did not specify which occupations he considers in need of separate systems, but IT-related positions in particular have been cited as an area where the government has particular trouble recruiting and retaining employees. That’s in part because salaries are not competitive with the private sector’s and in part because of inferior career development and advancement opportunities.

Pon and Michael Rigas, the new deputy director, also mentioned revising policies to better fit a more mobile workforce in which employees may move in and out of government many times over a career, in comparison with the traditional model of spending many years, if not an entire career, with the government. That also was not detailed. They further did not mention White House proposals to strengthen management’s hand in disciplinary actions and to lessen union rights, also potential elements of a widescale civil service reform.

They said that under their leadership OPM would stress improvements in its information technology and continuing the shift from paper-based operations to digital, in order to improve OPM services to agencies and to employees. In the latter category they mentioned speeding up processing of retirement applications, which OPM has struggled with for many years.

Video source: OPM