The Trump administration is escalating its fight to kill the federal agency responsible for managing the government’s 2.1 million civilian employees, The Washington Post’s Lisa Rein reports.
The Office of Personnel Management is preparing to furlough, and possibly lay off, 150 employees if Congress blocks its plan to eliminate the agency, according to internal documents obtained by the Post. The furloughs would begin on October 1, the first day of the new fiscal year.
What this fight is about: The Trump administration has proposed to eliminate the agency. It would mark the first time in modern history that a large federal department would be disbanded, Rein says. “Trump officials say that OPM is a broken agency that should be wiped clean and restarted,” she explains. “They cite security weaknesses that led to a massive data breach, inefficient hiring policies and a backlogged system of processing paperwork for retiring employees.”
OPM’s functions and its 5,565 employees would be redistributed across three other departments, with most moving to the General Services Administration, which serves as the real estate and procurement hub for the government.
But that plan has met resistance in Congress, where lawmakers say the administration has failed to present a clear and compelling case for the reorganization. Critics charge that the effort is intended to weaken and politicize the federal workforce. “I want to see how this plan is cheaper for the taxpayer and better for the federal workforce,” Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who leads a panel overseeing government operations on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told the Post. “It’s hard to get to a determination of how this makes things better.”
What’s next: The Trump administration wants a commitment from lawmakers by the end of the month to kill off the agency. Without such an agreement, they say they’ll be forced to cut staff on their own. Margaret Weichert, the acting director of OPM who has led the charge to dismantle the agency, reportedly told her staff that she is “planning to play chicken with Congress.”
House Democrats are moving to block Weichert’s plans, though legislation advanced by the House Appropriations Committee last week to forbid the administration from spending money to “reorganize or transfer any function” from OPM must still get through Congress. The fight over OPM’s fate is set to keep going.