OPM director Dale Cabaniss has resigned abruptly, the second person in that position to do so during the Trump administration, leaving the agency once again with an acting leader, this time amid the Coronavirus impact on the federal workforce.
Like Jeff Pon before her, Cabaniss served only about six months between being confirmed and resigning, and like him reportedly due to differences with higher officials in the White House. That schism centered on federal personnel policy – and in this case reportedly involved the Presidential Personnel Office tasked with vetting.
As the Coronavirus has spread in recent weeks raising questions about federal employee telework, leave, working schedules, benefits and more, OPM has played a back-burner role. While early guidance came from there, the most recent and most extensive have come from the OMB.
“At a time when federal employees are on the front lines of a public health crisis, the federal community needs leadership,” the NARFE organization said, noting that OPM also lacked a confirmed director during the month-long partial shutdown of late 2018-early 2019.
Cabaniss, who was confirmed last September, was a former member and then chair of the FLRA with many years of experience in federal employment-related matters as a senior Capitol Hill staff member. Her last official act was to issue a routine memo about extensions of some long-standing special pay policies for employees in overseas areas of military operations.
She is being succeeded on an acting basis by deputy director Michael Rigas, who has held that position for two years. Rigas was a Massachusetts state government official before going to OPM and formerly held positions with the conservative Heritage Foundation and the GSA.
OPM has been led by acting directors for the entirety of the Trump administration apart from the roughly 12 months total that Pon and Cabaniss served as confirmed directors.