Agency leaders from the General Services Administration and the Office of Personnel Management said Thursday they hope to deliver a plan to Congress this fall outlining how they will shift the government’s human resources services in the coming months.
As part of the Trump administration’s massive government reorganization strategy, OPM will divest itself of much of the transactional operations centered on its Human Resources Solutions office, which includes a “nationwide cadre of consultants, psychologists, IT specialists, faculty and program managers” that assist agencies in their HR missions.
GSA Administrator Emily Murphy and OPM director Jeff Pon told a Senate subcommittee that planning on that move has begun and should produce timelines and business cases “by the end of summer or early fall.”
“Our task force is actually mapping out that project plan so that there will be a smooth transition on it,” Pon said. “What I think you will see after the task force tackles this part of the HRS is a timeline of implementation which we will be sharing with this body, as well as other key stakeholders.”
The move is the first phase in a multi-step plan to remake OPM into solely a personnel policy office within the White House, while also increasing GSA’s role as a products and services provider for the federal government. While both agencies are examining how to move HRS as the first step, future phases could address whether to move federal retirement and health care products and services as well.
Senators repeatedly asked the pair to demonstrate how overhauling OPM will add efficiency to mission delivery, especially given that the agency will retain its policy role.
Pon told the committee that since GSA already maintains the IT infrastructure for a number of the services that OPM uses, it could streamline solutions and make them more interoperable under one roof.
“I think it’s an operational efficiency,” he said. “One part of OPM does the policy end of things. In the other part of the spectrum, we provide services to agencies. The [GSA] does services for IT and acquisition, and I think finance and HR are the next steps to consolidating that back-office infrastructure.”
Such a move could possibly be done by Trump administration without legislation from Congress, Murphy and Pon said, but their legal teams were evaluating how to delineate responsibility for governmentwide programs like USAJobs.
But OPM officials also want to complete their work on the federal employee digital record, which requires them to standardize a data infrastructure that can handle troves of employee information and then hand it to the payroll management teams at GSA.
Murphy said that GSA was leveraging its Office of Shared Solutions and Performance Improvement to assist OPM in its EDR efforts and would be helping agencies on how to populate those records with employee information.
“While Jeff is taking the lead on this, it’s definitely going to be something we do in partnership,” she said. “Because GSA, in our work with shared services, may be able to expedite and help those customer agencies with that part of the process.”
The pair said their taskforces would likely look at whether to shift health care and retirement operations in fiscal 2020 or 2021, but the EDR operations would play a large role in making those more efficient.