Unions welcome Trump’s nomination for federal HR chief

By on 14/03/2019
US Senate will be responsible for confirming Cabaniss nomination for OPM role (Image courtesy: Phil Roeder/Flickr).

US president Donald Trump has announced that he intends to nominate former Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) chair Dale Cabaniss to lead the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – which manages personnel policy for the US government.

If her appointment is confirmed by the US Senate, Cabaniss will take over from the agency’s acting director Margaret Weichert, who has been acting in post since the abrupt resignation of Jeff Pon in October.

Cabaniss’s last role in government saw her working on civil service issues as Republican staff director on the Senate’s Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.

Broad support

Following the announcement by the White House, five major federal sector executive and management professional associations comprising the Government Managers Coalition (GMC) wrote a letter in support of the nomination.

“Ms. Cabaniss’ experience as chairman of the FLRA and in the United States Senate with the Committee on Governmental Affairs and Committee on Appropriations, promise a broad and relevant skill-set ideal for filling this crucial government role,” they said. “We encourage the Senate to promptly act on this nomination.”

The letter said that the OPM has “lacked consistent Senate-confirmed leadership over the last several years”.

It added: “Operating without a clearly established direction by Senate-confirmed leadership should not become the standard state of affairs for any agency, particularly for such an integral component for managing the federal workforce.

“Ms. Cabaniss has the background necessary to step in and provide crucial guidance to the agency and to federal workers.”

False start

Trumps’ first nominee for the role after taking office, George Nesterczuk, pulled out in August 2017 after fierce opposition from civil service unions over his nomination.

In a letter to the chairman of the Senate committee charged with confirming the appointment, they criticised his role in the creation of the National Security Personnel System in 2003 – calling it a “discriminatory personnel system created out of extreme ideological disdain for the due process worker protections and merit system principals that define our modern day civil service”.

In a letter to Trump withdrawing from the process, Nesterczuk said that “partisan attacks” were “intended to prevent me, or anyone, from carrying out government reforms that the American people and you, Mr. President, are rightly demanding.”

All change again

After Nesterczuk pulled out, Kathleen McGettigan carried on as acting director until the appointment of Jeff Pon in March last year. However, Pon resigned after just seven months in the role – prompting speculation that he’d been seen as inadequately committed to the president’s planned civil service HR reforms, which include making it easier to fire officials and breaking up the central HR function.

Cabaniss joined the FLRA in 1997 during the Clinton administration, and served as chair under president George W Bush. Prior to that, she was counsel to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

If confirmed, her tenure at OPM would run for four years, the White House said.

About Colin Marrs

Colin Marrs is a journalist specialising in local and national government, as well as architecture and the built environment. Colin previously worked as digital content editor at Campaign, the advertising industry "bible".

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