Workforce

What the OPM shakeup means for the agency's planned merger with GSA

Jeff Pon photo via OPM twitter 

Jeff Tien Han Pon (center) resigned as director of the Office of Personnel Management on Oct. 5.

The abrupt departure of Jeff Tien Han Pon as director of the Office of Personnel Management was met with mixed levels of surprise, but some believe his being replaced will accelerate organization and policy changes.

The White House announced Pon, who was confirmed by the Senate in March, would be replaced by Margaret Weichert, the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director for management, on an acting basis Oct. 5.

Sources told FCW they thought the replacement had to do with the personnel agency slow-walking of its end of the proposed merger between OPM and the General Services Administration. But now with OPM under Weichert, some believe that effort could take place faster.

"While [the change] may slow down some of the policy work, it might actually accelerate the GSA move,” said Jeff Neal, vice-president of the management consulting firm ICF. "Having the DDM running OPM makes it more likely the move will be pushed through."

Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University, said with the leadership change, "all bets are off on last spring's reorganizations until Weichert takes stock."

"She's clearly got the green light to consider alternatives, including a consolidation of personnel policy inside OMB and under her direction," he said. "The real challenge right now is to rebuild OPM," he added. "I can't think of a single management agency in the federal government that is less respected by the agencies it oversees than OPM right now."

Still, some of the proposed reorganization will require congressional approval. There are bills in both the House and the Senate to expand the executive branch’s authority in reorganizing agencies. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee recently voted to advance their chamber's bill to a floor vote.

The Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill has yet to pass Congress, and lawmakers could hold that up if they had concerns over the move.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) heads the appropriations subcommittee, as well as the subcommittee of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs, with jurisdiction over OPM operations.

"The country owes Dr. Pon a debt of gratitude for his service, and I applaud the President's pick of Margaret Weichert as the interim director of OPM," Lankford said. "Ms. Weichert has shown us in her short-term as OMB's deputy director for management that she has the ability to manage a complex organization like OPM. I look forward to working with her in this new role."

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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