Two Democratic senators told Margaret Weichert, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), to put the brakes on proposed furloughs of OPM employees in connection with a plan by the Trump administration to merge OPM with the General Services Administration.

The merger plan has already run into stiff resistance in the House from numerous members including Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who has questioned whether the merger can be accomplished without legislative action, and has objected to the administration’s stated reasons for the merger – including IT problems at OPM and a budget shortfall caused by shifting the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) from OPM to the Department of Defense. Rep. Connolly is trying to get an amendment approved to the National Defense Authorization Act (HR 2500) for FY20 that would block the merger altogether.

In a July 10 letter, obtained by Federal News Network, Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., told Weichert that the proposed layoffs at OPM are “premature and unnecessary.” Instead they asked the administration “to work with Congress on a solution that does not hurt federal workers,” and to “avoid linking employment decisions to unrelated policy matters.”

Fixing the OPM budget shortfall through layoffs, the senators said, would be “premature and unnecessary” as Congress has yet to finalize FY20 appropriations, and the current House appropriations bill “more than makes up for” the spending gap at OPM.

They also pointed to OPM’s acknowledgment in a briefing to congressional staff that the agency has not yet analyzed all of its resources and how it could use them to address the OPM funding gap. “These steps must be taken before OPM takes the drastic step of furloughing, and possibly laying off, hard-working federal employees who were already forced to go without pay while furloughed earlier this year,” the senators said.

They asked Weichert for a briefing by July 24 “regarding alternative options for OPM to address budgetary needs in FY2020.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.