In his continued quest to dismantle the apolitical civil service that keeps our country running, President Trump recently signed an executive order to authorize the transfer of the governmentwide suitability, credentialing and security clearance portfolio from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to the Defense Department (DoD). The executive order officially renames the Pentagon’s Defense Security Service as the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) with the DCSA serving as the primary security clearance provider for all of government, effective June 24.
This move is one of many expected as the Trump administration attempts to dismantle OPM, bring its major functions under tighter White House control, cut jobs, replace our merit-based hiring and pay systems with cronyism, and return to an outright spoils system, where political supporters of the president are rewarded with civil service jobs.
A robust “merit-based” civil service system is a cornerstone of all modern democracies, including America’s. It ensures that technical expertise is brought to bear on performing government’s missions, without the threat of partisan agendas controlling the way day-to-day operations are carried out.
But this administration hasn’t shown any signs that they recognize the importance of a merit-based civil service. Instead, the Trump administration has routinely questioned the political loyalties of federal employees and complained when their work challenges its own opinions and understanding on issues such as science, law, and economics.
What’s the real reason for dismantling OPM?
The administration’s purported rationale for dismantling OPM is unclear, but allegedly has something to do with the agency’s information technology (IT) systems. If IT improvements were actually the problem, acquiring better IT would be the solution. But IT quality is definitely not the “problem” the Trump administration is addressing with this proposal, as its details reveal.
Their plan, following the shifting of background checks to DoD, is to send OPM’s policy function to the Executive Office of the President and everything else to the General Services Administration (GSA). Transferring the human resources policy function to the White House is an obvious move to politicize federal employment, but so is the transfer of OPM’s other human resource functions to GSA, even if it is less obvious.
Americans must be able to rely on the fact that the federal workforce is processing their Social Security claims and measuring pollution in the air without regard to politics or political considerations. We simply cannot allow our sisters and brothers who have dedicated their lives to serving the American people without regard to politics to be hired or fired based on political considerations.
In addition to the proposed dismantlement of OPM, this administration has tried to eliminate, degrade, restrict and otherwise undermine your due process rights and collective bargaining rights. These rights will only become more vulnerable to abuse or elimination if the administration gets its way with regard to the abolishment of OPM.
The merger plan was developed without input or involvement from either Congress or the federal workers like you who will feel the effects. The idea first appeared in the President’s Management Agenda and was fleshed out and buried deep in GSA’s obscure Congressional Budget Justification. Now the Trump administration has brazenly announced its intention to implement parts of their administratively, completely bypassing Congress in the process.
The importance of maintaining a nonpartisan, apolitical civil service in an increasingly partisan environment cannot be overstated. We cannot allow this administration to abolish OPM, the agency whose primary mission is to uphold this important foundation of our democracy.