House bill would add demographics to the Plum Book

Currently there is no single source for summary information about the demographics of political appointees.

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A House bill meant to modernize the Plum Book, the quadrennial list of presidentially appointed jobs in the federal government, has a new addition that would require the release of summary-level demographic information about political appointees.

The measure, introduced Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and folded into the Periodically Listing Updates to Management Act, or PLUM Act, would require the Office of Personnel Management to work with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel to make a public summary of appointees’ demographics available at least once a year.

The jobs inventoried in the Plum Book include high-level Senate-confirmed posts (agency heads, ambassadorships and a select few CIO jobs); Senior Executive Service “General” positions, which can be filled by either career feds or appointees; and Schedule C roles, which are excepted from the competitive service because they shape policy or are required to serve in a confidential relationship to a key official. A wide range of IT leadership positions fall into the SES and Schedule C categories.

“To meet the needs of the American people, our political appointees need to reflect America,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “By publicly reporting on the demographics of appointees, we will see where efforts need to be improved to ensure that our policymakers are not only talented, but diverse and representative of everyone in our country.”

Currently, “there is no central location” for demographic information about appointees, said Mark Hanis, co-founder of Inclusive America, a nonprofit that’s issued its support for the bill.

Inclusive America does maintain data on appointees, but they access that data through a variety of methods, including Freedom of Information Act requests and sources compiled by other organizations, he said.

If passed, appointees would report their race, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, gender, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, and whether they are over the age of 40. They’ll also have the option to not specify for each category.

This information would be released with the online version of the Plum Book, which would be transformed into a continually-updated online directory of appointments maintained by OPM.

For the new Plum book, agencies would be required to give data like the names of appointees, their agency, location and type of position, to OPM on a monthly basis. After the end of an administration, OPM would have to archive the data compiled under the last administration.

The demographic information would be reported at least once a year.

Users would be able to sort the data by agency or by demographic category, or a combination, although they won’t be able to go down to the level of identifying individual appointees.

The bill was referred out of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on June 29 with a slew of other reform bills.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) has introduced a companion version of the PLUM Act in the Senate, although it currently does not include a companion item to Ocasio-Cortez’s bill.

Last year, both the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Oversight and Reform Committee advanced the PLUM Act.

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