The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) plans to furlough 150 employees if Congress does not authorize a proposed merger of OPM with the General Services Administration by June 30, according to a report from the Washington Post.
The furloughs would be used to cover the shortfall in OPM’s budget once the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) moves from OPM to the Department of Defense. OPM Acting Director Margaret Weichert told reporters in May that NBIB move would leave a $70 million gap in the agency’s budget, and the Post story noted that the furloughs would cover around $23 million of that shortfall. The report also notes that those employees could be laid off after 30 days.
In an interview with the Post, Weichert confirmed a deadline of June 30 for legislators to authorize OPM’s disbandment and merger into GSA – a deadline that requires quick action on the part of Congress.
“As the Administration has shared publicly on many occasions, the Congressionally mandated move of background investigations to DOD leaves OPM with a major funding shortfall. We continue to work with Congress to find a solution and sustainable path forward that avoids unacceptable impacts to the staff at OPM. Unfortunately, issues of funding and appropriations law leave OPM with few options. It is our sincere hope that Congress helps us find a way to address the funding gap created by their decision to move a major funding source away from OPM,” said Jacob Wood, spokesperson at the Office of Management and Budget, in a statement.
The move drew ire from House Democrats, who have opposed the reorganization plan and made moves in appropriations bills to block the Trump administration from implementing the plan.
“This announcement from OPM flies in the face of testimony the Administration gave to our Subcommittee,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Government Operations Subcommittee, in a statement.
“Director Weichert made it clear that this merger proposal was not ready for prime time. After realizing they were not going to prevail on the merits of the proposal, the Trump Administration is taking 150 federal employees hostage unless we consent to a plan that has no rationale and is nothing more than a political gambit to give the White House control of our longstanding merit-based civil service system,” Rep. Connolly said.