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Oversight Disarray Won't Bring Accountability to D.C.

Oversight Disarray Won't Bring Accountability to D.C.

Rob Shriver, acting director, Office of Personnel Management, testifies during the House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing titled "Reviewing the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Pt. II," on May 22. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Julio Rivera By Thursday, 30 May 2024 08:49 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Anyone who watched the May 22 oversight hearing at the Committee on Oversight and Government Accountability that put the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on blast had to be thinking, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

As I mentioned in an earlier column, OPM is the United States’ largest employer. It works with, recruits, and supports almost all the millions of civil servants on the federal government’s payroll.

The May 22 hearing, a follow-up to the committee’s Part One review of OPM in March 2023, provided OPM’s leadership the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to addressing the many glaring issues found within its management (and expansion of) the out-of-control federal bureaucracy. However, a disheartening display of evasion, blame-shifting, and a lack of concrete commitments unfolded.

The hearing, which spanned over three hours, delved into a trifecta of concerns that have long plagued the federal apparatus. These included the persistent delays in retirement processing, the lack of standardized telework policies across federal agencies, and “Schedule F,” a recent OPM rule designed to prevent future president’s ability to hold senior-level bureaucrats accountable.

The depth and breadth of these issues underscored the magnitude of the challenges facing OPM and the agency’s clear lack of a plan to address them to a skeptical Congress.

Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., wasted no time cutting to the chase, laying out his issues of concern, particularly on the issue of federal employee teleworking policy, and the lack of progress OPM has made in making the federal bureaucracy since the 2023 hearing.

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, quickly joined in, questioning OPM Acting Director Rob Shriver about recent press reports that federal employees were preparing to “push back” on policy proposals that they opposed, a clear violation of their duties as public servants.

Sessions also questioned Shriver about reports that OPM was double-dealing as a federal agency regulator of staffing services companies and a provider of staffing services itself.

For example, last year, Rep. Comer found that OPM is effectively threatening government agencies to use the USAJOBS website that OPM manages, which helps the government find and hire new workers, instead of working with private sector companies — a clear conflict of interest.

What followed these conservative members’ questioning was a masterclass in bureaucratic deflection.

Shiver, adept at sidestepping direct questions, sought refuge in the murky waters of interagency cooperation, shifting blame to other federal entities — like the Office of Special Counsel — for the personnel quagmire. His responses, bereft of substance and accountability, left a bitter taste in the mouths of committee members and observers alike.

In perhaps the most stunning answer of the day, Shriver said, “OPM undertook a substantial effort last year to bring its systems into compliance with things like multi-factor authentication, anti-phishing, and encryption.”

Really? Last year?!

The cyber breach at OPM — the largest in the history of the federal government, exposing the data of millions of federal employees, retirees, and even applicants for federal positions — took place in 2015 — almost nine years ago!

While Chairman Comer's incisive remarks and direct questioning highlighted the pressing need for OPM to address its systemic shortcomings, Shiver's evasive maneuvers underscore OPM's deep dysfunctionality. Shriver is merely playing his part, defending the indefensible, throwing up a smoke screen to hide basic ineptitude at OPM, hoping that Congress will soon lose interest in reforming OPM as other, more pressing issues consume the legislative calendar.

The clearest takeaway from the hearing is that OPM is so fundamentally inept at performing its basic mission functions that the time has come for this agency to be shut down.

The core elements of OPM — oversight of the federal workforce — can and should be transferred to another agency — the General Services Administration (GSA) or the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) come to mind. The rest of OPM’s functions — retirement administration, federal employee health and life insurance, and staffing services — should be outsourced to competent private sector actors.

Instead of making our government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” OPM has designed a federal personnel management oversight system that is “of the bureaucrat, by the bureaucrat, and for the bureaucrat.” Federal employees get a great deal, and the American taxpayer is footing the bill.

OPM is a dinosaur with no critical mission, no clear relevance, doing a job that smaller, more efficient private sector actors could do better and at a lower cost. By dismantling OPM and reconstituting its functions within a more transparent and accountable framework, Congress can send a clear message — federal employees work for the American people, not the other way around.

Julio Rivera is a business and political strategist, cybersecurity researcher, and a political commentator and columnist. His writing, which is focused on cybersecurity and politics, is regularly published by many of the most respected news organizations in the world. Read Julio Rivera's Reports — More Here.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Instead of making our government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” OPM has designed a federal personnel management oversight system that is “of the bureaucrat, by the bureaucrat, and for the bureaucrat.”
opm, office of personnel management
Thursday, 30 May 2024 08:49 AM
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