Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) held a hearing to examine the White House government reform recommendations released last month. Committee members asked questions regarding the cost benefit analysis of the plan, impact on agency services and the workforce, and sought specific details about the various agency and program proposals. NTEU submitted a statement for the record.
Margaret Weichert, Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), was the sole witness at the hearing. She testified primarily about how much of the plan came from existing Inspector General and Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommendations, and stated that the proposals include recommendations on ways to reduce duplication and to meet the priorities of the President’s Management Agenda.
Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) asked numerous questions seeking the data and metrics that were used in developing the Administration’s recommendations, and requested a cost-benefit analysis. Deputy Director Weichert responded that the proposals issued last month were designed to be bold ideas, and should be viewed solely as an initial framework. She said that the Administration would be working over the next few months to further analyze and develop the proposals. Senators McCaskill and Kamala Harris (D-CA) asked which proposals could be implemented without congressional action, and which ones required legislation. Deputy Director Weichert said that she guessed ten or eleven of the proposals could be implemented without congressional action. When asked which specific proposals those were, Deputy Director Weichert responded that her stated number was only a guess, and that she would not know for sure which proposals required action from Congress and which could be implemented unilaterally by the Administration until after further analysis is conducted later this summer.
Senator Harris also asked about the estimated number of reductions in force as a result of the proposals. Deputy Director Weichert said that while there was a “flavor of reduction” in the initial OMB memo directing agencies to develop reorganization and workforce plans, it is not the plan’s current goal. However, she said there could be dislocation of some workers due to skills imbalance.
In addition, Senator Harris raised questions about the recent executive orders (EO) issued by the President on May 25th that impact federal employee collective bargaining and due process rights. Deputy Director Weichert said the goal of the EOs was to get back to the merit system principles, but did not provide specific responses to the questions. Senator Harris then asked if agencies had any flexibility under the guidance issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) regarding the 25 percent cap on official time. Deputy Director Weichert said that the OPM guidance memos speak for themselves, and that she would need to follow-up following the hearing with any further information.
NTEU will continue to work closely with its allies in Congress to ensure that our members are not harmed by these proposals. NTEU is pleased that Members of Congress are asking to be consulted and are insisting that they be part of any reorganization. It is expected that this Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management will hold a hearing next week on the specific reorganization proposal to break up OPM, and to house federal workforce policy and programs in the White House.
I will keep you posted as more information becomes available.