Trump Admin Moves to Eliminate Agency that Oversees Federal Personnel

Published on April 10, 2019 by Athena Pallas

The Trump administration is moving to eliminate the Office of Professional Management (OPM), an agency which oversees more than two million federal employees and which itself has more than five thousand employees. Reportedly OPM employees were informed of the plan in March and President Trump was planning to announce the dismantling of the OPM over the summer, but The Washington Post broke the story today. The dismantling plan reportedly calls for the functions of the OPM, which was founded by Congress in 1978, to be split and allocated to at least three other agencies.

The largest federal employee union, the 750,000 member American Federation of Government Employees, criticized Trump’s plan to dismantle the OPM, calling it “Trump’s Dangerous Plan to Abolish OPM”, according to The Hill, and expressing concern that moving OPM functions closer to the White House and therefore White House control could subject federal employees to political maneuvering, forcing federal employees “into a fight for the pay and benefits they’ve earned every time an administration decides they want to free up money for a pet political project.” According to The Washington Post:

If the Trump administration succeeds at dismantling the Office of Personnel Management, the closure could be a blueprint for shuttering other departments as it tries to shrink government. The agency would be pulled apart and its functions divided among three other departments. An executive order directing parts of the transition by the fall is in the final stages of review, administration officials said, with an announcement by President Trump likely by summer. OPM employees were briefed at a meeting in March. …The White House is attempting to dismantle the agency in several stages, with some steps beginning now and other changes delayed pending congressional approval. …For Democrats and their allies in the labor movement, the effort to abolish the agency and redistribute its functions is a power play in defiance of Congress. “Does anyone really think that if tomorrow the president said, ‘I’m dismantling DOD, and I think Ben Carson over at HUD can handle procurement and Betsy DeVos over at Education can handle the Army,’ that it would fly through?” asked Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), chairman of a House Oversight Committee panel on government operations.

Margaret Weichert, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget and acting OPM director, advocated the move to dismantle the OPM as “a big, exemplary step”, according to The Hill, of the Trump administration goal to shrink and streamline the federal government. Representative Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), quoted above as sharply critical of the move, however, sent a letter to Weichert demanding answers to his questions on the plan and also indicated will hold hearings on the matter later this spring. Congressional approval will be required for some steps in the dismantling – that is likely to be the sticking point for the Trump administration’s plan, as the Democratic majority House is unlikely to agree to it.

Featured image by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.