Proposal to Revamp OPM, Labor and Education Department

A White House proposal would substantially change OPM, move it under the EOP and merge the Departments of Education and Labor.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), formerly known as the Civil Service Commission (CSC) prior to the passage of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, may again undergo significant changes under a new White House proposal.

Revamping OPM and Moving to EOP

But, while the 1978 legislation expanded the size of the federal government and the role of the former CSC in some ways, a new proposal to revamp the functions performed by OPM may not have the same result. Under the Trump administration, the goal is to cut down on the size of government.

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, has told The Associated Press the proposal is part of the “drain the swamp’ agenda”.  It is designed to streamline overlapping regulations and functions of federal agencies.

Under the proposal, OPM’s HR Solutions may move to the General Services Administration.

The Defense Security Service would also take over some of OPM’s responsibilities. The Security Service may be renamed to become the Federal Security Counterintelligence Agency (FSCA). FSCA would become the primary governmentwide security clearance provider. This function has only been performed by OPM since 2005 and it has not always worked well as security clearances often take a long time while those who need the clearance end up waiting.

Under the proposal, the other functions of OPM would be moved under the Executive Office of the President. According to the reorganization plan:

This proposal is an opportunity to elevate the Federal workforce management function and maximize the operational efficiency of human capital services. The civil service system is overdue for an overhaul, and that overhaul would best be implemented under a new management structure that is more focused on core priorities and that has not been molded around the existing, archaic framework of civil service rules and regulations.

Once complete, a transition into the EOP could create a more streamlined personnel management unit that is less expensive to operate. Such a unit would also support centralized coordination of all personnel policies for Federal employees, eliminating the confusing matrix of who does what today, as well as several key gaps in policy that are inhibiting the streamlining of mission support services. Centralizing human capital operational services at the General Services Administration (GSA) should provide economies of scale and significant cost-avoidance based on reductions in contract and IT duplication as well as increased data sharing and availability.

Forming the Department of Education and the Workforce

As part of the reorganization effort, the White  House is proposing merging the Departments of Labor and Education. The new agency would be called the Department of Education and the Workforce.

The Office of Management and Budget said today that the proposal would “allow the Federal government to address the educational and skill needs of American students and workers in a coordinated way, eliminating duplication of effort.”

Education is one of the smallest federal agencies. It employs about 3,900 employees. According to the Wall Street Journal, its workforce has been reduced by more than 10% with an agency hiring freeze since President Trump took office.

The Department of Labor has about 15,000 employees.

Many of these changes would require Congressional approval.

In an election year (such as 2018), this issue is unlikely to work its way through Congress. Government reorganization proposals are not exciting to many voters. But, while most voters may find the topic boring, there will always be interest groups who emerge to attack an elected official running for office who may be inclined to support a reorganization.

In short, from the perspective of a person whose main goal is to stay in Congress, voting in favor of a reorganization will not be seen as a winning issue—especially when an election is coming up in a few months.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47