Chaffetz backs Trump's tough line on feds

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sketched his priorities for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but Democrats want to see a formal plan.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).
 

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform laid out an agenda that included reform of the civil service, federal acquisition and IT issues among its top priorities.

Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) focused on the "great opportunity" to enact "long overdue" civil service reform, including the federal retirement system, and to address "literally hundreds of billions of dollars" in the federal acquisition system.

"We have a lot of good, hardworking, patriotic federal workers… but there are some bad apples out there" whose actions result in government waste, fraud and abuse, he said.

Chaffetz also applauded President Donald Trump's recent executive order instituting a hiring freeze, but added, "there are certain departments and agencies that do need more employees." He said the Secret Service was short about 1,000 agents and officers, and that "attracting and retaining IT personnel is of key interest to this committee."

Chaffetz also pledged to reboot the panel's work on governmentwide IT modernization. In the last Congress, a bid to create a funding mechanism for agencies to move to cloud and managed services passed the House but got stalled in the Senate.

Notably absent from the committee's first hearing was the presence of an oversight plan, required under the new rules of the 115th Congress.

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) took notice.

"This is now our third week of the new Congress… but we have not seen a draft of our oversight plan," he said. "We have not had a single meeting about it, and when my staff asked when we could expect it, they got no date."

Cummings also called for the panel to be aggressive in doing oversight of the Trump administration. In particular he hoped Chaffetz would change his tune on the issue of financial conflicts of interest posed by Trump's businesses.

"The chairman himself publicly commended the president's plan not to divest," Cummings said. "How can we come to this conclusion if we haven't held a single hearing, conducted a single interview or obtained a single document?"

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