The nominee to become OPM director has received a generally friendly confirmation hearing before a Senate committee amid prospects that there would be much less of OPM for her to direct if the administration’s reorganization plan for the agency is carried out.
If confirmed, Dale Cabaniss would take over an agency that has had only acting leaders for four years apart from last year when Jeff T.H. Pon was confirmed only to resign about six months later, reportedly due to his reluctance to push the reorganization plan. Like Pon, Cabaniss has substantial experience in civil service issues: she has two decades of experience on those matters as a Capitol Hill staff member, was named to the FLRA governing board during the Clinton administration and led that agency during the Bush administration.
Part of the reorganization plan already is under way, with the recently announced move of OPM’s background investigations unit to DoD. The other main element would move OPM’s training and other personnel services, along with operation of the insurance and retirement programs, to GSA, with the remainder of OPM—an unknown but much smaller number of employees than the current 5,500—would become a policy office under OMB.
Several Democratic members of the committee expressed frustration with a lack of response from the administration to requests for a detailed justification and an analysis of the impact on federal employees and the legal issues involved. Cabaniss promised to be cooperative with such inquiries and said she expects that changes in law would be needed for some aspects, although she did not specify which.
Members of both parties meanwhile called her attention to long-running issues facing OPM including modernizing its IT; the length and complexity of the hiring process and the lack of feedback to applicants regarding where they stand; the potential loss of large numbers of employees to retirement; and the delay before new retirees begin receiving a full annuity.
Cabaniss said that all of those issues would get her attention, adding that she believes that retirement claims processing and the central USAJobs site are due for comprehensive reviews.