National Association of Government Contractors

Senators Demand Answers on OPM Merger

The Trump administration doesn't yet have a legal analysis to justify why it believes it can merge the Office of Personnel Management with the General Services Administration.
Attorneys at OPM are still developing that analysis, even as the administration had told Congress it needed a commitment to merge the two agencies by June 30 or else risk the potential for furloughs of OPM employees.
At a hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee to discuss OPM's slow production of documents related to the proposed OPM-GSA merger, OPM Deputy Chief of Staff Stephen Billy said the agency could not provide information on the legal analysis -- and has redacted documents that mention the agency's legal authority -- because it is not yet complete.
"There's an assumption that some parts likely are able to be executed under current statutory authority, and we're going through that analysis," Billy said. "There are different authorities that could potentially move different pieces, how they could affect people vs. resources. So we're going through that full analysis together with our interagency partners."
Lawmakers in both parties expressed frustration with OPM over its reluctance to hand over documents regarding the decision-making that led to the proposal to send the vast majority of OPM's operations to GSA, and to send the agency's regulatory authority to a non-Senate confirmed political appointee within the Office of Management and Budget.
Thursday's hearing was designed to give subcommittee members an opportunity to hear to, in a public setting, hear from officials at OPM about agency's compliance with congressional inquiries related to the merger -- and with leaders at GSA and the FBI about the latter agency's headquarters.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the subcommittee's chairman, said the panel had received 524 pages of documents from the administration on the OPM-GSA merger to date, and that the documents generally weren't responsive to requests he had made back in April.
Connolly and committee Democrats had asked for plans, a timeline, proposed inter-agency agreements and a wide array of communication, meeting notes and other reports prepared by outside consultants who are working on the merger.
Billy said the administration was in the process of finalizing a few thousand more pages, but his response didn't satisfy the committee.
"We asked just tell us the legal authority. Cite the legal authority that you say you have to go forward. That's it. Redacted," Connolly said. "That's called responsive? That's part of that just voluminous 400 pages that they broke sweat over to get us? Any reasonable member of Congress can look at that and realize we have a problem."
"Your point is right in line with what the concern is," Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) said in response. "Mr. Billy, you're not doing your job. There is a stall. It does not take multiple people to get 400 pages or 500, whatever it is, to questions that have no reason to be redacted."
Billy said the agency was using a Six Sigma "tollgate" process to develop a legal analysis for the merger. Administration officials are using a similar process to evaluate the merge's impact on OPM customers and other stakeholders.
The administration first publicly revealed a rough sketch of its proposal to reorganize and merge OPM with GSA nearly one year ago.
"OPM made a very significant decision essentially to dismantle itself or dissolve itself without first obtaining any formal opinion as to the legality of this decision," Raskin said. "My first take on this, having looked at some of the legal authorities, is that the proposal is likely illegal. The administration came up with a plan and never took care to vet it or assess its lawfulness."
Thursday's hearing came one day after the House passed 2020 appropriations for OPM and other agencies in the financial services and general government spending bill. The measure doesn't include the $50 million the administration had initially requested to carry out the merger. It also includes specific language that would prevent the administration from merging OPM with GSA and a block on furloughs for the agency's employees.

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