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President Names Head For Personnel Agency

By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 19, 2005; Page A11

President Bush will nominate Linda M. Springer, a former financial management specialist at the Office of Management and Budget, to become the next director of the Office of Personnel Management, the White House announced yesterday.

If confirmed by the Senate, Springer, 49, will succeed Kay Coles James, who resigned in January. The OPM, with a $270 million annual budget and a workforce of 5,300, helps set federal workforce policies and administers employee and retiree benefit programs.

Springer recently stepped down as controller and head of the Office of Federal Financial Management at the OMB, a post that she had held since March 2003 and that had also required her to win confirmation by the Senate. She previously worked for 25 years as an executive and actuary in the insurance and financial services industries.

Springer, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, would inherit an agency that is an important player in the Bush administration's efforts to rewrite long-standing federal civil service rules affecting employee pay, promotions and discipline at all federal agencies. The departments of Defense and Homeland Security are scheduled to implement new personnel systems this year that officials say will more strongly tie pay to performance and give managers more power in deploying workers. Leaders of federal employee unions say the new systems curtail workers' rights and undermine merit principles.

The OPM is also expanding its role in conducting background checks of federal employees and contractors, recently receiving a transfer of about 1,800 workers who performed that role at the Defense Department.

No date has been set for confirmation hearings, but Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement yesterday that the committee will move quickly.

"The new OPM director will face a number of immediate challenges that are important to the federal workforce," Collins said.

Clay Johnson III, deputy director for management at the OMB, said Springer "has extensive knowledge of modern personnel practices and has proven that she can work well with Congress."

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said her organization wants to learn about Springer's views on such issues as civil service rule changes, employee rights, and retirement and health care benefits.

"This position is central to ensuring that agencies have the tools they need to attract and retain high-quality employees," Kelley said, "and it is imperative that the OPM leader have the experience, qualifications and leadership skills to meet the formidable challenges facing the federal workforce."

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