Trump to nominate new OPM head

The candidate to serve as the nation's top human resources official has a background in computer science and software development, and a controversial record as a conservative commentator.

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

President Donald Trump plans to nominate John Gibbs, a senior official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to serve as director of the Office of Personnel Management.

Gibbs joined HUD in 2017 as an advisor to agency head Ben Carson, and this March stepped into the role of acting assistant secretary for community planning and development.

Gibbs has a computer science degree from Stanford and has worked as a software engineer at Symantec, Palm and Apple Computer. In addition, he is fluent in Japanese and worked in Japan for almost seven years for WorldVenture, a global evangelical Christian ministry.

Gibbs also rose to prominence as a conservative commentator with a penchant for conspiracy theories. A CNN report from March 2018 detailed Gibbs's history of controversial Twitter posts, including the claim that Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman took part in satanic rituals.

OPM has been without a Senate-confirmed director since mid-March, when Dale Cabaniss quit, reportedly due to friction with the White House personnel office, which has been running its own effort to push out senior officials deemed insufficiently loyal to the president.

Since then Michael Rigas, acting deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, also has been serving as acting OPM director and has been deeply involved in new policy on leave and telework required due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

OPM has also been at the center of a long-running controversy during the Trump administration, as Congress and the government's own lawyers, frowned on a plan to merge much of the agency's core functions into the General Services Administration and set up a separate human resources policy shop inside the White House.

A recent investigation by the Project on Government Oversight revealed that Justice Department attorneys had characterized the merger – if pushed without legislative approval – as illegal. That opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel was reportedly never shared with the congressional committees charged with oversight and funding of OPM.

As it stands currently, the OPM-GSA merger is supposed to be on hold for the time being, thanks to appropriations riders and legislative text in the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, pending a study from the National Academy of Public Administration.

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