Plan to Dismantle OPM Threatens Merit-Based Civil Service, Reardon Says

Press Release May 21, 2019

Washington D.C. – The administration’s proposal to dismantle the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and give the White House more power over the civil service threatens the merit system upon which our federal workforce is based, said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

In written testimony submitted Tuesday to the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, Reardon announced NTEU’s opposition to the White House plan released Friday that would give an unconfirmed political appointee control over government-wide personnel policy.

“Given their track record, it is difficult to imagine that this administration will protect the merit system or federal workers if given the flexibility and opportunity laid out in this proposal,” Reardon wrote.

OPM was established as an independent agency within the executive branch to enforce the civil service rules and regulations that protect employees from arbitrary action, personal favoritism or coercion for partisan political purposes.

Moving part of OPM to the Executive Office of the President “would remove the agency’s nonpartisan, independent status at a time when federal employees already fear reprisals from agency heads for not showing enough support for the administration’s policies,” Reardon wrote.

NTEU is also concerned about the proposal to move retirement services and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to the General Services Administration, an agency that has no experience administering such programs.

Reardon said the administration has so far failed to engage frontline employees in discussions about improving agency efficiency and effectiveness, and has instead urged agency leaders to undercut collective bargaining agreements and weaken the rights of federal employees.

Instead, Reardon urged Congress and the administration to increase funding for OPM as a way to improve the agency’s data security and alleviate the retirement processing backlog.

“If this administration really wants to reform the government, dismantling the agency that can help them do that makes no sense.  Nor does it make sense to freeze out those who know how government is supposed to work.  The administration’s legislative proposal contains no coherent rationale for destroying the OPM we have now,” Reardon said.

NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.