Eighteen months ago, the President issued an Executive Order (EO) to reorganize government agencies and the federal workforce. A few weeks ago, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the administration’s proposals to reorganize various agencies. Today, a Senate subcommittee hearing was held to consider one of the proposals that would do away with Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and turn the General Services Administration (GSA) into the Government Services Agency.
Dr. Jeff Pon, the Director of OPM, and GSA’s Administrator Emily Murphy testified before the subcommittee. These two agencies are currently working on a plan to transfer three parts of OPM to GSA: Human Resources Solutions (provides human resources products and services to agencies for a fee); retiree services and processing (annuities); and the administration of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). The core employee workforce policy parts of OPM (Employee Services) would be absorbed into the Executive Office of the President. Dr. Pon indicated that the administration’s proposed reorganization is an attempt to maximize efficiency in the government and that its ideas are solely in the developmental stage. Administrator Murphy stated that she believes this is a fertile environment to improve the life cycle of services offered to federal agencies and federal employees. The two agency heads envision a two- or three-year process, starting first with the transfer of Human Resources Solutions from OPM to GSA, followed in 2020 or 2021 with the Retirement Services and FEHBP divisions. Dr. Pon testified that he believes some of the changes can be done administratively, but that much will require legislation. NTEU continues to urge Congress to recognize the importance of maintaining an independent entity responsible for career federal employee policy outside of the White House. Several Senators stated that OPM is supposed to be an independent agency, expressly set up to assure that federal personnel is merit-based, not political, which transferring these functions to the White House would seem too blunt.
Senators Harris (D-CA) and Hassan (D-NH) extensively questioned Dr. Pon about the recent EOs, opposed by NTEU, that include significant limits on official time. As you know, some employees are currently on 100% official time for representational duties such as attending management meetings, handling grievances, bargaining, and serving on task forces. The senators pointed out that official time exists so that employees have a voice in the workplace, that it allows unions to enforce protections offered under the law, and that representing employees is a valued and necessary use of work hours.
NTEU sent a statement to the subcommittee expressing our concerns about the proposed reorganization on the federal workforce. A copy of the letter is attached for your review. We will continue to press Congress to remain engaged and to play a role on all of the reorganization proposals, as well as to assure that no employees are harmed or that the plans are not simply masking a desire to seek across-the-board workforce reductions.