Connolly and Cummings Request Interviews on Administration’s Troubled Proposal to Eliminate OPM

Chairmen Reiterate Demand for Withheld Documents

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Washington, July 15, 2019 | comments
Today, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter to Margaret Weichert, who currently serves as both the Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Deputy Director of Management at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The Chairmen’s letter requests transcribed interviews with three top officials regarding the Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate OPM and split its current functions between GSA and the White House. The letter also insists on full compliance with the Committee’s previous request for documents that the agencies have been withholding to date.

“We have continuously expressed serious concerns about the Administration’s reorganization proposal, including concerns about the removal of expertise and merit standards from our federal workforce, as well as the lack of adequate planning and stakeholder engagement undertaken by Administration officials,” the Chairmen wrote. “The Committee has repeatedly attempted to work with OPM staff to get information that would demonstrate that the Administration performed its due diligence when offering this proposal. But OPM has failed to provide—and in at least one case, create—even basic documents that would allow for oversight of the plan.”

In response to the Administration’s failure to produce requested documents, the Chairmen requested transcribed interviews with the following officials by July 31, 2019:
• Dustin Brown, Deputy Assistant Director for Management of OMB;
• Peter Warren, Associate Director for OMB; and
• Michael Rigas, Deputy Director of OPM.

The Committee previously had requested the following documents related to the proposal:
• Any legal analysis generated by any government agency or outside organization of the authority to perform the reorganization, and what would be needed from Congress to accomplish it;
• A list of all authorities and missions of OPM and where these responsibilities would be conducted throughout the reorganization;
• An analysis of how moving OPM components to GSA will improve operations;
• A detailed timeline of all ongoing and planned reorganization actions;
• A risk analysis and contingency plans related to the OPM reorganization;
• Plans to protect sensitive data, including personally identifiable information and personally identifiable health information of millions of federal employees and their families, held by OPM; and
• Alternative plans or options discussed to create a more effective and efficient OPM.

“To date, OPM’s response to Committee document requests has been wholly inadequate and has failed to provide most of the information that has been requested,” the Chairmen wrote. “In its last two appearances before the Committee, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has failed to justify the Administration’s intention to eliminate the agency; provide basic planning documents, including a legal analysis of the authorities required to implement the proposed abolition of OPM; and assure the Committee that moving OPM’s policy functions to the Executive Office of the President (EOP) would not reverse more than 100 years of civil service reform. Under these circumstances, we wish to convey in the clearest possible terms that we oppose the Administration’s intentions for OPM.”

Connolly and Cummings noted that in testimony before the Committee, Stephen Billy, the OPM Chief of Staff, acknowledged that OPM has yet to develop a legal analysis of the reorganization plan. Mr. Billy also failed to provide a clear answer to why information related to legal authorities was redacted from the limited set of documents produced to the Committee. Despite not obtaining congressional approval to conduct this reorganization, the Administration continues to state that it intends to move forward with parts of the reorganization.

At the hearing, GAO and the Acting OPM Inspector General expressed deep concerns about the process the Administration used to develop its merger plan. The witnesses said the proposal was unclear and did not follow best practices for change management.

The full letter is available here.
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