US federal personnel chief quits after seven months

By on 10/10/2018
Margaret Weichert has been appointed as acting director of the OPM

The White House has appointed a new head of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) following the resignation of previous chief Jeff Pon, who took up the post in March but quit last week.

Margaret Weichert will take on the role as acting director of the OPM, in addition to her current job as deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the White House said in a brief statement.

Pon’s resignation last Friday has not been explained by either the White House or the OPM, whose spokesman told the govexec.com website that it had been a surprise.

Pon had been confirmed in the role in March, leaving his post as chief human resources and strategy officer at the Society for Human Resources Management. 

Down the Pon

He had been in charge of president Donald Trump’s civil service reforms, attempting to implement his executive orders to make it easier to fire federal employees and limit the power of the unions. These orders were invalidated by a judge in August, though Trump’s administration is now appealing the ruling.

The departure of Pon has raised questions about the future of the OPM agency, according to federal employee news site fedweek.com. Weichert had been the primary driver of a plan to break off the agency’s operating parts and put remaining policy functions under the direct control of the White House, it noted.

The most commonly cited reason for Pon’s resignation is that he had been under pressure for not being sufficiently supportive of the administration’s plan for OPM, which was part of a wide-ranging government reorganisation proposed in June, it said.

New face, new challenges

“Margaret has my full trust and support, and I know she will hit the ground running to ensure the federal workforce has the right skills and tools to deliver the proper services to the American people,” OMB director Mick Mulvaney said, according to govexec.com.

Meanwhile, Republican members of the House and Senate have proposed a settlement that would increase federal employee pay by 1.9%, in direct contradiction of Trump’s stated intent to freeze federal employee pay in 2019.

The agreement comes after the Senate and House versions of the general government appropriations bills initially conflicted on federal pay, according to FederalTimes.com.

About Catherine Early

Catherine Early is a journalist and editor specialising in government policy and regulation. She writes predominantly about environmental issues and has worked for the Environmentalist, the ENDS Report, Planning magazine and Windpower Monthly, and also written for the Guardian, the Ecologist and China Dialogue.

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