Fedweek

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The two MSPB board members recently confirmed by the Senate have been sworn in, making the board operational for the first time in more than five years, but the agency has cautioned that federal employees with appeals pending there will need more patience.

“Now that the quorum of members has been restored . . . the Board will soon begin issuing final decisions on petitions for review and other cases pending before it. Issuance of these decisions will not be immediate,” says a posting on the agency’s site. “It will take time for the Board members to receive necessary training and begin reviewing and voting on cases and for the Board’s administrative staff to issue the decisions in these cases. This process will be conducted as expeditiously as possible.”

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A backlog of some 3,600 cases has built up during that time as hearing officers continued to issue decisions. Before his time expired in early 2019, the last remaining member had recommended outcomes for some of those cases, but those will not be binding on the two new members.

Also, cases on which the two new members split would have to await confirmation of a third to be resolved. The third nominee remains hung up in the Senate due to Republican opposition.

Meanwhile, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has scheduled confirmation hearings for nominees for all five seats on the TSP governing board as well as for the position of inspector general at the OPM.

The TSP board currently has four members, all of whom are serving as holdovers since their terms have expired. That includes one, Dana Bilyeu, executive director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, who has been nominated for another term. The others hold various roles in the investment industry.

The normally low-profile TSP board has drawn substantial attention in recent years on politically charged issues that likely will similarly arise at confirmation hearings. Republicans in 2020 caused the board to suspend a plan to expand the international stock I fund because China would have been among the countries added. Meanwhile some Democrats have been pushing the TSP to create environmental/social “responsibility” funds and/or to exclude companies in certain industries from its fund offerings.

Another potential topic will be the upcoming TSP investment “window” that will allow account holders to move some of their investments into outside mutual funds that allow such targeting.

The nominee for inspector general of OPM is Krista Boyd, a senior staff member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee with long experience on Capitol Hill in federal workplace matters. That position has been filled only on an acting basis for six years, behind only the position at DoD in terms of time without a confirmed IG.

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The prior IG notably had repeatedly warned about the state of OPM’s information security, which proved to be prescient when it was disclosed that those databases were hacked. That resulted in the disclosure of personal information on more than 20 million current and former federal employees and others on whom the government had performed background checks dating back many years.

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