Cummings seeks reorganization plans from OMB to avoid ‘degradation of federal workforce’

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is concerned that his committee hasn’t yet had the opportunity to conduct oversight on the federal reorganization process. He sent a letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, requesting copies of each agency’s reorganization proposal by Jan. 3.

“The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has jurisdiction over both the federal workforce and proposed agency reorganizations, and the Trump Administration is now in the midst of one of the largest reorganizations in decades with virtually no oversight by Congress,” Cummings wrote in the Dec. 19 letter. “As Members of this Committee, we believe it is our job to analyze the Administration’s plans to determine if, and to what extent, these massive reductions in staffing will impact the services the American people rely on every single day.”

President Donald Trump ordered OMB to come up with a plan to reorganize the federal government in a March 16 executive order. OMB delivered further guidance in an April 12 memo directing agencies to develop and submit their reform plans to OMB by the end of September.

Cummings isn’t satisfied with the handful of disclosures agencies have publicly made so far about their plans. Cummings and other Democrats on the committee have been calling for hearings since October, concerned about possible “degradation of the federal workforce,” a phrase that returns in his most recent letter calling for transparency.

“The degradation of the federal workforce — particularly among those who dedicate their lives to protecting our national security, our environmental safety, and our health and wellness — should not occur in darkness,” Cummings wrote.

OMB did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Some agencies have been more open about the reorganization process thus far than others.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, is on a path to shrink its human resources function of 7,000 employees in half over the next few years, as the department consolidates HR offices and shifts those offices from transactional work to human capital consulting and strategic planning.

“I’m going to set up centers of excellence. I’m going to have regional HR centers. I’m going to have a new IT system, and over the next several years as these things come online, through attrition we’re going to shrink the HR force by probably 50 percent,” Peter Shelby, VA’s assistant secretary for human resources and administration, said during a Sept. 20 panel discussion in Washington, sponsored by Government Executive. “It’s going to be a big shrinkage there.”

The department closed the human resources function at the VA Central Office in Washington a few weeks ago. About 28 people from the central VA HR office are being moved to other positions in the department and will start new jobs Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, the Interior Department has made headlines for its opening salvo of reassigning between 30 and 50 of its 275 senior executives with little-to-no notice. The agency has said reassignments and relocations are a key aspect of its plan.

Interior has asked the Office of Personnel Management and OMB for a “very broad” VERA/VSIP authority in an effort to shrink the size of its workforce and move more people from their positions in Washington out to field offices.

“The expectation is we need to shrink our footprint in D.C. and Denver to move those jobs,” said Raymond Limon, director of the Office of Human Resources and deputy chief human capital officer at the department. “Numerically, we don’t necessarily have a target, but [there’s] an expectation that where people can perform in the field, we should do it. And dare I even say, virtually, because that’s OK too.”

Limon said Interior hadn’t received final VERA/VSIP approval yet.

Meanwhile, OMB has already given the Small Business Administration the green light to begin implementing some of the agency’s reform recommendations.

Unlike many other agencies, SBA’s 2,000 employees won’t likely see many buyouts or early retirement offers. The agency’s workforce has been slowly shrinking since the 1990s, and SBA is taking a careful approach to manage its workforce and comply with budget cuts.

“We are not going to be doing a reduction in force at SBA,” SBA Chief Human Capital Officer Elias Hernandez said. “We are not going to be offering [VERA/VSIP] at SBA. There is so much attrition that’s already taking place in the organization, that we want to manage the agency reform and the adjustments that we need to make based on our budget, based on the attrition that’s going on at the organization.”

Performance management is also getting a heavier focus in SBA’s reform plan. Hernandez said the agency is reviewing employees’ responsibilities and looking for activities that are redundant or unnecessary. From there, SBA will update performance expectations.

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