At OPM, Weichert pushes direct hire, pay agent changes

By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268 

Margaret Weichert, newly installed as acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, briefed reporters on her plans to jumpstart changes to federal hiring practices and to seek approval from Congress for changes to federal pay structures enshrined in law.

In a conference room at OPM, Weichert and several officials who spoke on background told reporters that the agency plans to give direct hiring authority for cybersecurity and IT positions to agencies. Additionally, Weichert is looking for direct hiring authorities to cover six technical occupations. The plan also includes changing special occupational pay and classification.

An OPM spokesperson clarified that this action will consist of two parts. The OPM director can act under existing authorities, which "will get clearance and [Weichert’s] signature … in the next week or so." This will be followed by a regulatory change promulgated by the Office of Management and Budget, where Weichert works at her other job -- as Senate-confirmed Deputy Director of Management.

Efforts to implement direct hire authorities were underway before Weichert took over OPM.

Weichert doesn't appear to be a short-term fix at OPM. While she offered no answers on whether her predecessor, Jeff Tien Han Pon, was asked to resign or chose to exit federal service, she did indicate that she would be "going through the budget process" as OPM director to develop a spending plan and secure funds for different incentive structures for FY 2020.

Other legislative activity includes possible changes to Title 5 and continuing the governmental reorganization.

Regarding the timeline for the reorganization, "we’re fairly close to getting the actual target dates that we’ll be able to share publicly," she said. "There are things in Title 5 that are essentially taking away the ability of agencies to respond agilely to needs on the ground, so I think there are a number of areas in that space."

Weichert said she spoke with members of Congress from both parties over the weekend to gauge their interest in such changes. In the meantime, the plan for the reorganization currently, she said, is to work "within existing authorities and existing appropriations."

Weichert also addressed concerns about retaining OPM's positioning as an independent agency, as it prepares to move human resources policy to the White House and its back-office functions including health coverage to the General Services Administration.

"I would fully stipulate there may be some compliance capabilities that we could absolutely consider whether they need to go into, let's say, the Executive Office of the President. There may be a better place for those to be housed," Weichert said. "But in terms of strategic direction, I would say there’s no better place" because human resources policy, "needs to sit close to the C-suite."

"Organizational constructs don’t have value in and of themselves. Independence, if it's not delivering the actual mission, isn't of the primary concern," she said.

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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