The Trump administration’s plan to reorganize the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) ran squarely into bipartisan concerns expressed by House members over a lack of information about the plan to move the agency’s functions to the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
At a hearing today of the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Government Operations Subcommittee, subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly, D-Va., underscored his concerns over the lack of documentation that Congress has seen about the proposed OPM reorganization.
“This proposal was released without any data or evidence to support its goals,” said Connolly. “The administration has not provided this committee with a clear and convincing reason for dismantling this key Federal agency. The administration has not provided even basic information,” he added.
On the Republican side of the aisle, subcommittee ranking member Rep Mark Meadows, R-N.C., shared similar concerns over the reorg plan’s rollout from OPM.
“I would join the chairman – he’s requested some documents in terms of legal authority, what part could be done administratively, what part needs to be done legislatively – and I join him in asking and making sure those documents are made available to this subcommittee so that we can make informed decisions,” said Meadows.
Margaret Weichert, OPM’s acting director and a witness at today’s hearing, accepted some of the blame for not rolling out the plan in an ideal way.
“I have to admit, I started with all the documentation that was already in the public domain … and to me, that case for change is self-evident. I will totally take the mea culpa that I haven’t done a good enough job articulating what to me is the writing on the wall – that this entity is not only failing in technology, it’s failing in its core mission,” said Weichert.
Weichert said the plan has not progressed as quickly as OPM hoped. When pressed on the timeline, she acknowledged that the reorganization would likely not be ready by October as outlined in the administration’s reform and reorganization plan.
The reorg plan’s lack of detail and supporting data also elicited critical comment from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and OPM’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).
“Without additional information from OMB and agencies, GAO cannot assess the legal authorities the administration is relying on to implement the reorganization,” said Triana McNeil, acting director of strategic issues at GAO.
Rep. Connolly also made his clear his principled opposition to the plan, saying the proposed reorganization would jeopardize OPM’s core mission of supporting the civil service.
“This hearing is about the administration’s plan to eliminate the independence of the civil service. The administration wants to take over the merit policymaking functions and put them into the highly politicized environment of the White House itself, away from direct Congressional oversight and inspector general review,” he said.
Connolly acknowledged that OPM needed improvement, and his belief in Weichert’s sincerity in making the case for OPM’s reorganization. But he emphasized that the process to reorganize OPM must be more deliberate.
“This isn’t even building the plane while flying it. This is landing without landing gear and hoping no one sees the sparks,” quipped Connolly.