Oversight Dems want answers from GSA on OPM facilities move

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Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are complaining that the Trump administration is continuing to advance the proposed merger of the Office of Personnel Management into the General Services Administration despite language in recent legislation requiring a pause on the effort.

"It appears you withheld critical information from Congress and continued to take actions prohibited by statute, demonstrating a flagrant disregard for congressional authority and the law," the lawmakers stated in an April 1 letter.

Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) signed the letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy.

The lawmakers are calling out a move by GSA to eliminate OPM's authority to manage its headquarters building in Washington, D.C. and another facility in Charlottesville, Va.

Former GSA official Mary Davie, who worked on the merger plan, denied a bid by OPM to maintain the authority to manage its own buildings, according to emails released by the committee for "practical and philosophical reasons."

"The Case for Change," Davie wrote, referencing a document by former OPM Acting Director Margaret Weichert that laid out a justification for the merger, "acknowledges that OPM's core mission is not facility management -it is GSA's."

As the lawmakers noted in their letter, last December's National Defense Authorization Act included a provision that prohibited any “assigning, transfer, transition, merging, or consolidation of any function, responsibility, authority, service, system, or program that is assigned in law” to OPM with regards to the proposed GSA.

"Any action to rescind OPM’s authority to operate its own buildings is a clear violation of this statutory provision," the lawmakers advised Murphy in their letter. "Your decision to rescind OPM’s authority is directly tied to the Trump Administration’s plan to abolish OPM and move its component parts to GSA."

The four lawmakers asked Murphy to participate in a transcribed video conference interview on April 15 and to provide any additional information pertaining to future plans to merge the two agencies.

In its proposed budget for fiscal year 2021, GSA included plans for an OPM budget, suggesting that plans for the merger would move forward despite an ongoing cost-benefit study.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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