No Word Yet on New OPM Leader

With the Trump transition team now moving its focus from Cabinet-level departments to the larger independent agencies, there still has been no word about a potential nominee to head OPM. That agency could be a key to many of the incoming administration’s initiatives regarding management of the government, including the need to define the exact terms of the planned hiring freeze and to monitor agency compliance and potentially approve exceptions. OPM also could play a leading role in potential changes to disciplinary practices, employee appeal rights, and pay and benefits. Also on the new OPM director’s plate will be whether to continue several initiatives launched by the Obama administration, such as the “hiring excellence” program aimed at improving recruiting and selection of candidates and initiatives stressing diversity and inclusiveness—both of which the outgoing administration has urged the incoming one to continue. Another initiative, stressing the hiring of veterans, has been emphasized by administrations of both parties for many years and could well survive, if in a somewhat altered form, in the new administration. The same may well not be true, though, of another Obama initiative overseen by OPM, to encourage more involvement of unions before agencies make certain decisions and to encourage agencies to bargain over topics that are negotiable at their discretion. Ending a similar program established by the Clinton administration was one of the first actions of the George W. Bush administration. The “landing team” at OPM includes several people with ties to his first OPM director, Kay Coles James, and an official with the conservative Heritage Foundation who has written several reports arguing that federal pay and benefits are too generous. In addition to policy-related issues, the new OPM leader will oversee OPM’s regular tasks of operating the insurance and retirement programs, including an effort already spanning several administrations to improve customer service and the processing of retirement applications.