The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), an agency that plays an important role in the lives of federal civil servants, is facing a tough challenge getting its job done with shrinking resources.


MSPB Chairman Susan Tsui Grundmann plans to tell a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday she will be unable to fill 18 vacant slots this year. That’s a significant hole for a small agency whose duties potentially affect more than 2 million employees.

In addition, she will tell the panel that about a third of MSPB’s staff is eligible to retire in less than three years, as are almost 50 percent if its administrative judges.

At the same time, MSPB expects its workload to grow because of an anticipated increase in cases involving veterans, government retirees and workers facing layoffs or other personnel actions related to budget constraints.

The subcommittee on oversight of government management, the federal workforce, and the District of Columbia, chaired by Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), is scheduled to hold a hearing on the operations of MSPB and the Office of Special Counsel on Tuesday afternoon.

In MSPB’s “Performance and Accountability Report for FY 2011,” released in November, Grundmann said “the most significant issues affecting MSPB’s ability to carry out its mission to protect the Federal merit systems include an increasing number of cases involving veterans’ rights and changes in law and jurisdiction; the changing demographics of the workforce; and reductions in the Federal budget. We continue to address management challenges that affect our ability to successfully achieve our mission in both the short and long term.”

MSPB identifies itself as the “guardian of Federal merit systems.”It hears appeals of “adverse actions” against employees, such as alleged unfairness in firings, demotions and furloughs. MSPB also hears cases involving federal whistleblowers. The agency issues reports on the federal civil service system and reviews actions of the Office of Personnel Management.

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