Stalled MSPB nominee to lead key workforce policy shop at OPM

The Office of Personnel Management has tapped Dennis Kirk, one of the president's nominees to fill the Merit Systems Protection Board, to lead a key governmentw...

Two familiar faces are taking on key policy and human resources roles at the Office of Personnel Management.

The agency announced Dennis Kirk, whose nomination before the Merit Systems Protection Board has been lagging for nearly two years, as the new leader of OPM’s governmentwide human resources policy shop.

The announcement was made Tuesday in an email to OPM staff, which Federal News Network obtained.

As OPM’s new associate director for employee services, Kirk will oversee a broad portfolio. His office develops and administers policy on everything from pay, leave and labor relations to talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion, and performance management for much of the federal workforce.

Kirk is formally replacing Mark Reinhold, who left OPM back in December and joined the Securities and Exchange Commission as its new deputy HR director.

Brenda Roberts temporarily led OPM’s employee services division after Reinhold left the agency, and she’s returning to her full-time role as deputy associate director for pay and leave, according to the email.

OPM earlier this week announced Sara Ratcliff, the former executive director of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, as the new associate director for HR Solutions.

She retired from OPM a few months ago but has returned to lead the agency’s fee-for-service human resources shop.

OPM did not return requests for comment in time for publication.

Ratcliff is replacing Joe Kennedy, who led HR Solutions for several years but retired in December after 37 years at OPM.

HR Solutions manages USAJOBS.govUSA Staffing and USA Hiring, among other projects. The organization provides a variety of contracting and strategic services and other products to help agencies fulfill their human capital needs.

Both the HR Solutions and the employee services positions at OPM were previously held by career senior executives. The positions aren’t necessarily reserved for career employees. Political appointees can serve in those roles, according to two people familiar with the positions.

Kirk is no stranger to OPM, where he’s served as both a senior adviser to the chief information officer and previous agency directors since May 2018. According to the OPM email, he’s worked with agency leadership on various workforce programs.

It’s unclear what Kirk’s new position at OPM means for his nomination at the MSPB, which has been lagging before the Senate for more than a year.

Kirk’s MSPB nomination is controversial, at least for the federal employee unions who raised questions about his past experiences and business dealings.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced his nomination last February. But the Senate hasn’t moved any of the nominees, either as a package of three as is customary, or individually.

As Federal News Network has previously reported, Kirk’s nomination has ultimately delayed the Senate confirmation process.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which has vocally opposed Kirk’s MSPB nomination, declined to comment on his new OPM position.

The National Treasury Employees Union acknowledged the importance of the employee services associate director.

“NTEU hopes that the person who holds this job values the career civil service and is committed to upholding the statutory rights and protections of federal employees,” Tony Reardon, the union’s president, said in statement to Federal News Network. 

The delay has allowed a backlog to build at the MSPB, which has lacked a quorum for more than three years. At least 2,627 petitions for review have been pending at the board since the end of February,  according to the MSPB’s most recent data.

OPM, meanwhile, has experienced its fair share leadership upheaval in recent weeks and months.

The agency’s second permanent director, Dale Cabaniss, abruptly resigned in mid-March — amid tension and disagreement with the Office of Management and Budget and the White House, according to sources familiar with OPM.

Deputy Director Michael Rigas is now leading OPM in an acting capacity. He’s also the acting deputy director for management at OMB, which the White House announced late last week.

The sheer uncertainty of the Trump administration’s proposed merger of OPM with the General Services Administration has created anxiety and low morale for the past year — and driven top talent at OPM to retire or find new jobs.

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