Fedweek

Working groups already are in place to shift OPM’s policy offices to the White House and break off its operating divisions, officials have said, adding that they expect the planned reorganization to be carried out in phases.

At a Senate hearing, OPM director Jeff Pon termed the recently announced reorganization plan an “opportunity to elevate the federal workforce management function and maximize the operational efficiency of human capital services . . . OPM can concentrate on centralized policy development in areas such as employee compensation, workforce supply and demand, identification of future workforce skill needs, leadership and talent management, and other important issues.”

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He said that the expected first step would be to send to GSA OPM’s HR Solutions operation, which provides HR services to agencies on a reimbursable basis. He and GSA administrator Emily Murphy said that GSA already has expertise in running such operations through its centralized real estate, acquisition and other services to agencies. Pon also said that given last year’s law requiring DoD to take over from OPM responsibility for background investigations for its own employees, it makes sense to shift the entire OPM background investigations bureau to the DoD and to have it take over responsibility for the entire federal workforce.

OPM branches overseeing the insurance and retirement programs also are set for transfer to GSA, although the officials raised the possibility of holding off on those until upgrades to the operating systems currently underway are finished. They did not give a time frame, however, nor were they definitive regarding on what the administration considered within its authority to do on its own versus what would need a change in law.

In a statement submitted to the hearing, the NTEU union said the proposal amounts to “breaking up” OPM, not elevating it. “We are concerned about the break-up of retirement and health care policy and operations, and the loss of needed independence from all White Houses for federal employee and workforce management policy-making and decisions,” it said. “Moreover, the administration has not released key details about these proposals—including the impact on employees, the cost-benefit analysis, and whether the proposals can be implemented without legislation.”