During its often rocky history, the Roman Empire had more than its share of leadership problems. Depending on which historians you favor, there were times when it had two, three, four, five and six emperors in a one-year period. The U.S. has had one president elected to four terms (FDR) and another who was elected once, then defeated for reelection, then elected for a second non-consecutive term. Hint, his name is similar to a big city in Ohio.
Now official Washington is dealing with a situation where Beth Cobert, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, has been told she doesn’t exist officially. She is alive and kicking (at least I would be) but everything she’s done since taking office in mid-2015 is null and void. It never happened, even if it happened.
While it is an important agency, OPM is little-known outside of Washington and the federal workforce. Its director usually makes national headlines once or twice each winter. Whether it is a blizzard (like we had earlier this year) or a dusting, OPM makes the final call. And that call whether federal offices are open or closed is usually criticized by politicians, many locals and by folks from the real world further north where federal agencies are never closed by cold weather. Except when they are.
FCW learned that OPM’s Inspector General, Patrick MacFarland. had advised Cobert that her appointment violated the FVRA (Federal Vacancies Reform Act). When nominated to be acting director of OPM last year, Cobert was a top official with the Office of Management and Budget. While both OPM and OMB are part of the same government, have some overlapping functions and are physically just a couple of blocks away from each other, the IG said the move was wrong. Also, that everything she’s done at OPM is, in effect, null and void. At least since last Nov. 10, when President Barack Obama formally nominated her to be director. (McFarland is retiring effective today).
Cobert has been generally well received on Capitol Hill, especially considering the grillings other Obama appointees have received from the GOP-run committees that clear nominations. Or not.
And it’s likely that the plans and programs launched during her retroactive period of invisibility will eventually go forward. Or not.
One thing is for sure. We sure know how to have our own brand of fun here in D.C. It may seem complicated to simple folk beyond the Beltway, but we enjoy it.
Whether Cobert officially exists or not, the Federal Managers Association says:
“On February 1, FMA expressed to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee its support of the nomination of Beth Cobert to lead the Office of Personnel Management. When Acting Director Cobert took on her current duties, the federal workforce was responding to the largest cyber security hack it ever faced. Under Cobert’s command, OPM has worked tirelessly to provide securities to those affected and their dependents. The question of the validity of her position does not invalidate her dedication to the federal workforce and her tireless efforts to promote efficiency and effectiveness throughout the federal government.”