House NDAA includes prohibition on OPM merger

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

The House passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to block Trump administration plans to eliminate the Office of Personnel Management and transfer its functions to the General Services Administration and the White House.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) sponsored the amendment, which passed on a vote of 247-182 on July 11, with 15 Republicans, including Rep. Will Hurd (Texas), supporting the measure.

"We have not seen anything unfortunately from the administration to convince us that any part of this plan is a good idea and would make our government more effective and efficient," Connolly said in floor remarks July 10.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), who opposed Connolly's amendment, also noted that the administration "has not shown that [the merger] is an effective way to address the many problems that are facing OPM," adding that "despite repeated requests for legal analysis on the administrative authorities and cost-benefit analysis, the Oversight and Reform Committee continues to wait for supporting information."

Hice argued that the "amendment does nothing to help OPM's mission and closes options" to improve the performance of the beleaguered agency.

The text of the amendment not only blocks the shuttering of OPM but also any 'transfer, transition, merger or [consolidation]" of functions, IT systems, programs or staff.

At the same time, OPM is looking to leverage GSA's Centers of Excellence program to safeguard its legacy systems and data. According to contracting documents posted on GitHub, the IBM mainframe hardware that runs critical workloads covering federal retirement and background investigations are nearing their end of life.

While OPM has a current plan to modernize away from expensive mainframe systems, according to the contracting documents, "stabilizing the current mainframe infrastructure is an initial step to implementing those modernization plans and OPM cannot neglect legacy infrastructure needs in the process."

The winning vendor would be responsible for delivering and maintaining the upgrades at OPM data centers in Boyers, Pa., and Macon, Ga.

It's not clear whether the Connolly amendment or other proposed legislative efforts to close down the proposed merger would necessarily foreclose efforts by OPM to outsource any IT acquisitions to GSA, such as the mainframe refresh currently in development.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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