Among other later positions, he was chief of staff to the House subcommittee overseeing the federal workforce in the late 1990s, and returned to OPM as a senior adviser in 2004, playing a key role in establishing the National Security Personnel System at the Defense Department.
The NSPS was an alternative personnel system that ultimately applied to more than 200,000 civilian employees of the department and in its time was seen as a potential model for the entire federal workforce. It was designed to tie pay and awards more closely to performance ratings while giving management greater power over disciplinary matters. However, unions viewed it as allowing for favoritism and it was abandoned in 2009 when both Congress and the White House were controlled by Democrats.
In addition to operating federal employee benefits programs, OPM sets personnel policies governmentwide. The nomination follows a budget proposal that if enacted would require most current federal employees to pay more for their eventual retirement benefits while reducing their value. Meanwhile, numerous proposals are pending in Congress to make it easier for agencies to discipline employees for misconduct or poor performance, and agencies are conducting internal reviews that could lead to reorganizations and job cuts.
Among other current challenges for OPM are helping agencies to recruit and retain employees in high-demand occupations such as medical fields and cybersecurity.
OPM has not had a confirmed director since mid-2015, when Katherine Archuleta resigned in the wake of disclosures that personal information had been stolen from OPM databases on federal employees, retirees and other people who had undergone background investigations.
Beth Cobert served as acting director for the remainder of the Obama administration; she was nominated but never confirmed because of a dispute dating to before she arrived over OPM’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act’s impact on health coverage for members of Congress.
Kathleen McGettigan, the agency’s chief management officer, has been serving as acting director since the start of the Trump administration.