Time is growing short for action this year in Congress on one of the major initiatives announced by the Trump administration in its initial budget proposal, revamping the Civil Service Reform Act on its 40th anniversary.
No comprehensive reform bill has been introduced to address criticisms of the law raised mainly by political conservatives but also to an extent by good government groups and other experts. Those range from hiring practices to disciplinary policies, job classification and advancement, a lack of positive rewards for good performance, and more.
Soon after taking office in the spring, OPM director Jeff Pon said the intent is to undertake a wholesale rewrite; he criticized what he called piecemeal changes that have occurred over the years. He suggested that certain occupations—with IT being a prime candidate—could be carved out and put under hiring, pay and advancement systems specific to them. Later he repeated that message and said that the initiative would involve a mix of administrative actions and legislative proposals, with the latter to be sent to Congress in time for action before the elections.
Since then a number of administrative actions have been taken, most notably a set of three executive orders issued in late May. One of those orders focused on speeding up the disciplinary process while the other two focused on union-related issues, one primarily on the scope of bargaining and the other on the use of official time. The President’s Management Agenda also included some workplace initiatives, including strengthening the connection between performance and pay and a focus on “reskilling” current employees to perform higher-priority work.
However, no legislation has been proposed that would amount to a substantial overhaul of the Reform Act. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee did recently pass a bill (HR-559) to tighten the deadlines in the federal workplace disciplinary notice and appeals process and lower the bar for agencies to prevail.