New legislation introduced on March 9 by Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., aims to strengthen in Federal law the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) role at the center of the Federal government human resources functions, and take steps to make sure that the agency’s leadership is not politically driven.

The Office of Personnel Management Reform Act would codify recommendations made to Congress by the National Association of Public Administrators in 2021 and “help re-establish OPM as the independent federal agency that provides guidance and leadership to foster this nation’s expert civil service,” the congressmen said.

Among other provisions, the House members said their bill would:

  •   “Clarify OPM’s mission as the center of the federal government’s civilian Human Resources systems;
  • Require that candidates for the Director of OPM are selected without regard to political affiliation and that he or she have human capital and leadership expertise;
  • Ensure that the agency’s Chief Management Officer is a career civil servant to provide continuity and stability within the agency across presidential administrations; and
  • Create a federal advisory committee to help the Director better understand stakeholder needs, concerns, and ideas as they relate to OPM’s policymaking and operations.”

The bill would define OPM’s mission around the following points:

  • Leading the Federal government in strategic human resource management;
  • Ensuring proper application of merit system principles for all Federal civilian human resources systems and employees;
  • Functioning as an “independent human capital agency for Federal civilian personnel systems, employees, and annuitants;
  • Operating as a streamlined, customer-focused organization.

Regarding IT-related functions, the bill would charge OPM with:

  • Providing “Government-wide leadership” and facilitating “appropriate and efficient access to human capital data and systems to support strategic Government-wide human capital management”; and  
  • Using “information technology and data, data analytics, and predictive analytics to inform decision making, identify best practices and drive innovation.

Referencing a Trump administration effort to abolish OPM and fold its functions into the General Services Administration (GSA), Rep. Connolly said, “Now, we recognize our responsibility to rebuild and modernize this agency,” 

“Federal employees are the crown jewel of government, and we have a duty to provide them a fully equipped human resources agency,” said Rep. Connolly, who is ranking member of the House Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation Subcommittee.

“We must both attract and retain the talent our nation needs today and for years to come.”

“It is absolutely critical to support our federal employees,” said Rep. Mfume, who is ranking member of the House Government Operations and the Federal Workforce Subcommittee.

“Furnishing them with a modernized agency with resources to support our governmental workforce is imperative. This legislation will provide the tools the OPM needs to fully execute on its mission, and I am proud to co-lead this effort.” 

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.