National Association of Government Contractors

OPM Furlough Plan To Force Merger Unlikely

The House earlier this week voted to block the Trump administration from furloughing 150 Office of Personnel Management employees if Congress does not agree by the end of June to support a plan to merge OPM with the General Services Administration, but has since reversed course following House pushback. 
Lawmakers adopted by voice vote an amendment to the fiscal 2020 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill (H.R. 3351) preventing OPM from following through on the threatened furloughs. The broader spending bill, approved 224-196, also funds an average 3.1% pay increase for federal civilian employees next year.    
The bill would provide civilians with a 2.6% across the board raise in 2020, as well as an average 0.5% increase in locality pay. President Trump has proposed a civilian pay freeze for next year.
Acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert had argued that the plan was needed to address the agency's slow adoption of IT infrastructure upgrades and a $70 million budget shortfall created by the move of security clearance investigations from OPM to the Defense Department, but lawmakers in both parties have sharply criticized the proposal, saying it lacks a proper rationale or documentation.
Weichert threatened the furloughs last week, claiming that unless Congress agreed to advance the OPM-GSA merger by the end of June, a reduction in staffing would be required to address a budget deficit in fiscal 2020, although the House appropriations bill includes an increase in funding in excess of that shortfall.
Later in the week Weichert reversed course.
Weichert told agency employees during an agency-wide town hall meeting to discuss the recent developments and reassure employees that leadership is doing everything it can to avoid furloughs or layoffs. 
"We literally truly do not anticipate that we will have [reductions in force]," Weichert said. "What we have looked at, and [Deputy Director] Mike Rigas has worked with a team of folks in finance and a broader set of folks, looking at all of the scenarios if we don't have the funding we need on Oct. 1. And RIFs are not even in the first five categories of things we're looking at. I do anticipate that we will have funding if the government has funding … and if there's a continuing resolution we will have sufficient funds."

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