Trump names OMB deputy to replace Pon as OPM director

President Donald Trump tapped Margaret Weichert, the current deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, to be acting director of the Office of Personnel Management.

Weichert will continue her duties as OMB DDM, the White House said in its announcement Friday afternoon. She replaces Jeff Pon, who had been leading OPM since March. It’s unclear what his next steps are.

“The president made a fantastic decision to designate Margaret Weichert as the acting director of OPM,” OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said in a statement. “Margaret has my full trust and support, and I know she will hit the ground running to ensure the federal workforce has the right skills and tools to deliver the proper services to the American people.”

OMB referred further requests for comment or information to the White House. The White House did not respond.

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The news comes as a surprise to employees at the agency. Multiple sources said email at OPM has been down for most of the day and employees learned of the leadership change through reporters’ tweets or inquiries.

But some other sources have told Federal News Radio they’d heard rumors about a possible leadership shakeup at the agency for a few weeks.

The announcement comes just a few months after OMB proposed a major reorganization of OPM, including a move of the agency’s federal personnel policy offices to the Executive Office of the President. The proposals questioned OPM’s track record as the federal government’s central personnel entity and raised further questions about the agency’s future.

Pon, during his one press call with reporters during his tenure, talked of ambitious plans to use legislative proposals, executives orders and agency and OPM authorities to modernize the civil service.

He said he saw the months leading up to midterm elections in November as a crucial time for him to push new legislative ideas out the door.

OPM made one major legislative proposal known, when it submitted four recommendations to alter the existing federal retirement system for new and current employees. That proposal never got any significant traction on Capitol Hill.

OPM has been without permanent leadership off and on for several years. Pon waited for nearly six months before Congress agreed to set aside their differences over a politically-driven disagreement with an Affordable Care Act decision the agency made five years ago.

Trump’s first pick to lead OPM, George Nesterczuk, never got a nomination hearing and withdrew his name from consideration, in part because the vetting process was too long.

Beth Cobert, who stepped in to lead the agency through the crisis of multiple cyber breaches, was never permanently confirmed — again, because of OPM’s prior Affordable Care Act determination. Cobert replaced Katherine Archuleta, who resigned in the aftermath of the breaches.

Michael Rigas, OPM’s current deputy director, was the agency’s first in five years.