The Trump administration has been looking into dismantling the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and appears to be moving closer toward accomplishing something no president since Reagan has.
The last time a government agency was closed down was in 1981, The Washington Post reported. At that time, congress shuttered the Community Services Administration and rolled its responsibilities into the Department of Health and Human Services. The transition was rough, so it is important for the Trump administration to carefully examine how to move forward.
The Federal News Network (FNN) first announced the administration’s plans to reorganize the government in June 2018. At the time, the initiative looked like it would shrink OPM, but it now appears that the entire department would be eliminated and its functions shifted elsewhere. Last week, FNN reported that Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee want more details about the proposed elimination.
“To date, the administration has failed to provide the committee with the plans or any detailed justification,” committee Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) wrote to the leadership of the Appropriations Committee and Financial Service and General Government Subcommittee.
Connolly also demanded “written legal analysis of the authorities needed for the reorganization.”
OPM staff were reportedly briefed on the future of the department in March, according to The Washington Post.
“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,” the Post reported.
OPM is essentially a human resources department for the government’s civilian workforce. The agency employs 5,565 people. Margaret Weichart, the department’s acting director, told the Post the agency is “fundamentally not set up for success, structurally.”
Dissolving the agency could be a boost to Trump, who has not been able to change the bureaucracy embedded in the federal government. The final plan is still not finalized, however.
The Post reported that the agency’s functions would be spread out among three other departments: The Defense Department would take over background investigations, the General Service Administration would take over human resources, and the Office of Management and Budget would take over “high-level policies governing federal employees.”
Though it was not extensively covered (as it would have been under a Republican president) and quickly ushered out of the news cycle, OPM suffered a major breach in 2015 that resulted in 21.5 million people (including people as tangentially related to the federal government as the family members of those who had undergone federal background checks) having their personal information stolen.