Terry Gerton, president & CEO of the National Academy of Public Administration, and Bill Valdez, president of the Senior Executives Association, discuss the White House’s efforts to shift OPM functions to other agencies, and what that means for the office’s future.
On Thursday, officials from the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration spoke before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee on the plan to move OPM’s Human Resources mission to GSA. In testimony, OPM Director Jeff Pon said that “Merging certain OPM provided services with GSA functions will provide increased economies of scale and creates opportunity for significant cost-avoidance based on reductions in contract and IT duplication, as well as increased data sharing and availability.” OPM receives some of the biggest changes in the White House’s reorganization plan, and if the initiative succeeds as written, the office may not exist in the near future. Terry Gerton, president & CEO of the National Academy of Public Administration, says that OPM’s future depends on the Trump administration’s goals. “Really, you have to think about what does the administration want OPM to do? We at the Academy think that there’s a really important role for a strong, central organization. Whether you call it OPM or something else, it’s got to manage how all of the agencies deal with their personnel systems,” said Gerton. “You have to think about what their role in terms of policy is going to be and how they are going to be able to implement that and drive forward with the best solutions. Will it be influenced in ways that the administration has some political impact on it or will it really be independent?” Bill Valdez, president of the Senior Executives Association, said that from a management perspective, a smaller, more focused OPM could be a good thing. “I served a couple of years in the Executive Office of the President at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. There’s a real role for having a set of C‑Suite functions in the Executive Office of the President that has overall jurisdiction over important business functions,” Valdez said. “Currently, the way OPM is structured, they have jurisdiction over about 50 percent of federal HR functions and their attention is diluted in terms of making overall policy and being the consultative arm that we really need.”