Congress

Pending study to examine OPM-GSA merger

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) 

The National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law in December, requires a study of the proposed merger of the Office of Personnel Management into the General Services Administration. The study is to be conducted by the National Academy of Public Administration.

According to the terms of the NDAA, NAPA has 180 days to conduct its study analyzing the benefits and consequences of OPM being folded into GSA and other offices. NAPA officials told FCW there was no information yet on how the study would be conducted.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has opposed the merger since it was proposed in 2018 as part of the Trump administration's government reorganization plan, and pushed for language in appropriations bills and the NDAA to prevent the merger.

The requirement for the study, Connolly said in an interview, "grew out of enormous dissatisfaction in Congress with any basis for the proposal itself. He added: "If the Office of Management and Budget is not willing to abide by terms of the NDAA, to undertake an analysis of how the merger [would work,] then it makes the idea of proceeding even more remote."

Efforts by the administration to sell the consolidation proposal have not generated much support on Capitol Hill among Democrats or Republicans.

"I expect a robust rational [by NAPA] for this proposal, which has been missing," Connolly said. "I don't believe there is statutory authority for the administration to go forward with this. There’s been no rationale. There's been no analysis. It’s impulsive, and a potentially very damaging initiative."

The proposal would have consolidated most of OPM into GSA as a service -- putting human resources alongside acquisition and real estate. Some of the senior policy functions of OPM would have gone into a new small office housed at OMB, and modeled on the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

The administration said the reorganization was necessitated by a budgetary shortfall created by moving the background check office once housed in OPM to the Department of Defense. Congress eventually appropriated funds to cover the shortfall.

"This administration remains committed to reforms -- including organizational improvements -- that will increase the service and stewardship of the government for the American people," an OMB spokesperson told FCW. "Given the magnitude of the many policy wins included in the NDAA, we welcome a study to bring more voices to this important conversation."

This story was updated Jan. 16 to include a statement from the Office of Management and Budget.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a former staff writer and associate editor at FCW.

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