Director's Perspective

Let’s Not Forget a Vital Benefit of Having a Central Personnel Authority

OPM’s leadership and expertise can help agencies achieve much needed economies of scale.

As OPM moves closer to getting new leadership after more than 2 years without a Senate-confirmed Director, the time is right to reexamine the important roles that OPM can play in our civil service system. OPM was created by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA) to be the Government’s chief personnel authority. It was designed to serve as the central policy voice for the civil service, as well as to offer economies of scale and expertise for the administration of personnel management functions.

With respect to OPM’s central policy voice, over the last 39 years, some administrations have shown interest in departing from a centralized model. For example, in the 1990s, as part of the Reinventing Government initiative, OPM abolished its comprehensive personnel rulebook, the Federal Personnel Manual, and delegated significant authority over personnel matters to individual departments and agencies. In the early part of the last decade, Congress enacted laws giving the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authority to design their own personnel systems. Although those systems were later abandoned, DoD and DHS for a time operated outside of large portions of Governmentwide personnel rules administered by OPM. More recently, Congress enacted laws that created a separate discipline and appeals system for senior executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and later, DVA’s non-executive workforce.

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James Read
Director, Office of Policy and Evaluation
Excerpt from the Winter 2018 Issues of Merit Newsletter