WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees is calling on Congress to provide the Office of Personnel Management with emergency funds to address the theft of personnel files on more than 22 million current and former federal employees and job applicants.
OPM recently instructed agencies that they would be required to transfer money to OPM to pay for the remediation associated with the most recent personnel file security breach.
AFGE believes OPM’s action is unprecedented and improper. There is certainly a need for additional resources to address this important potential national security breach. But diverting agency resources from serving taxpayers and potentially impacting their ability to fund employee salaries and expenses is improper and a possible violation of the Antideficiency Act.
When Congress appropriates funds to agencies, it is done with specific purposes in mind. This is known as the “purpose limitation” of the Antideficiency Act. While payments to OPM for routine administrative services, including personnel services, are normally included in agency general appropriations, the security breach recently experienced by OPM is unprecedented in size and scope. It is neither a routine administrative service nor a service intended to provide agencies with necessary personnel processing services.
Rather, OPM has experienced an extraordinary event which will apparently cost an untold amount to correct. Some of the damages do not even directly relate to agency needs, as the security breach apparently affected anyone who applied for a security clearance, which includes many people who were not even ultimately employed by agencies, but merely applied for a security clearance.
OPM is attempting to apportion its loss to agencies that have had no part in creating this dilemma. The congressional appropriations process is not meant to serve as an insurance or indemnification fund for a central servicing agency’s critical mission failure.
If Congress is not able or willing to act, then AFGE believes President Obama should consider using contingency funds from national security accounts to assist OPM. This is a matter of a national security breach, and AFGE believes that the president has sufficient authority to assist OPM in covering the potential costs associated with this operational crisis.