Connolly amendment would block OPM layoffs

The chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee is looking to check an administration warning of layoffs at the Office of Personnel Management in the event that a merger with the General Services Administration can't move forward.

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

The White House has threatened to start the ball rolling on layoffs at the Office of Personnel Management if a proposed merger to fold most of OPM into the General Services Administration isn't advanced with legislation.

The Trump administration claims that a $70 million shortfall will result from the transfer of the National Background Investigation Bureau (NBIB) from OPM to the Department of Defense slated for the start of fiscal year 2020. The DOD was the biggest customer of the fee-for-service background check operation, and with those funds gone, OPM is facing a crunch.

To close the gap, the White House is mulling a 150-person reduction in force. The administration must provide 60-day notice in the event of such a reduction in force, and that could be coming on July 1, the administration warns.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), chairman of the Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee, says the talk of layoffs is "bullying and hostage-taking all rolled into one."

The House is set to vote this week on an appropriations bill that includes funding for OPM, which also contains language suggested by Connolly and others to prevent any spending on the proposed merger and to block even administrative outsourcing of OPM activities to GSA.

Additionally, Connolly is offering an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government funding bill that would block furloughs or reductions in force at OPM.

"We're closing off the escape routes," Connolly told FCW in an interview.

On June 24, Connolly joined in a letter requesting more information on the status of the hand-off of NBIB to DOD and expressing concern that the shift won't be completed within the required time frame.

At a Government Operations subcommittee hearing in May, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed doubt about the need for the merger and the business case provided by acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert.

The administration hasn't yet found a Republican champion for the plan.

"I don't see any legislative fix that's going to happen to allow OPM and GSA to merge," Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told FCW in June. "To suggest that that's a fight that will ultimately be accomplished by legislative means would be to deny the reality of the divided Congress."

Similarly, in the Senate, Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee have expressed skepticism about plan.

The administration is still looking to salvage a strategy that would link up OPM and GSA.

"We continue to work with Congress to find a solution and sustainable path forward that avoids unacceptable impacts to the staff at OPM," an Office of Management and Budget spokesman said in an email to FCW. "Unfortunately, issues of funding and appropriations law leave OPM with few options. It is our sincere hope that Congress helps us find a way to address the funding gap created by their decision to move a major funding source away from OPM. "

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