With now only about a month to go until Inauguration Day, there still has been no word regarding nominations for most key positions on federal personnel issues and meanwhile the Trump administration has made a policy change that could have an effect on the Biden team’s approach.
The main development has been an announcement of an intent to nominate Neera Tanden as OMB director; she currently president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and has held numerous other positions including as a senior health care adviser in the Obama administration, and a former top aid to Hillary Clinton. Other key positions in OMB include the deputy director for management, which oversees each administration’s management agenda and the deputy director for budget.
No candidate has emerged for the OPM director position, which currently is being filled on an acting basis by deputy director Michael Rigas, a political appointee who will have to vacate that position.
It is now virtually certain that the Senate will not vote on Trump administration nominees to fill that position, the three seats on the MSPB governing board or the FLRA general counsel position. Those nominations—which have been pending for many months, held up in many cases by opposition by some Democratic senators—will expire when the new Congress convenes January 3.
In addition to making nominations for those positions, the Biden administration also will have the option of replacing one of the two Republicans on the three-member FLRA governing board—who is serving on a holdover status after his term expired—to change the party control of that board in favor of Democrats.
Meanwhile, President Trump has issued a memo revising the order of succession for filling the OPM director’s position on an acting basis when both the director and deputy director positions are vacant, as will happen after the inauguration. The next two positions are the chief of staff and general counsel, also political appointees who will have to leave, followed now by the associate director for employee services.
That is a career position currently being filled by one of the Trump nominees for a Republican seat on the MSPB, raising the prospect that he could remain in charge of OPM for a time after the change in administrations. However, Biden could prevent that by naming an acting OPM director of his choosing, pending confirmation of a nominee.
Previously, the chief management officer was next in line after the political appointees. That position is held by a longtime OPM career employee who was acting director for more than a year at the outset of the Trump administration until its first confirmed OPM director was installed.