The nomination of three members to the TSP’s five-member board have again raised attention to the longstanding lack of confirmed officials in positions that are key to federal workplace policies.
Unlike the other positions, the three seats on the five-seat TSP board are not vacant. The terms of all five current members have been expired for more than a year—in one case nearly five years—but at the TSP, terms are automatically extended.
The three nominees were named on the expectation that they would form a bloc to overturn the current board’s decision to expand the international stock I fund to a broader index that includes China along with other emerging market countries. The current board responded by delaying that change until the three are confirmed by the Senate and can review the issue.
However, it could be some time until any decision is made. There is no set schedule for the confirmation process nor any guarantee that a nominee will be confirmed, as underscored by persistent vacancies at other key agencies.
OPM has had a confirmed director for only about 12 months total since mid-2015 when the then-director resigned over the breach of personnel and background investigation databases. In that time, one nominee for the position withdrew and two others were confirmed but resigned abruptly after about six months, reportedly after disagreements with higher officials.
The current acting OPM director, Michael Rigas, also is now acting deputy director of OMB for management, another key position. No one has been nominated for either position, at a time the pandemic has put unprecedented demands on front-line federal employees and has disrupted the normal working patterns of almost all the rest.
Meanwhile, all three seats on the three-member MSPB board remain vacant; two of them have been empty for more than three years, meaning the board has not been able issue decisions for that entire time. The Senate still has not voted on a set of three nominees even though they cleared the committee level last summer. MSPB hearing officers have continued issuing decisions over the three years, with a backlog of some 2,500 cases having built up.
Also vacant, for more than two years, is the general counsel’s position at the FLRA, a position that decides on bringing complaints—mostly filed by unions against agencies and not the other way around—to the FLRA board. In that case also a nominee has cleared the committee level but has not reached a Senate floor vote.