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Career OPM Officials Will Review All Political Conversions

Career OPM Officials Will Review All Political Conversions

Jason Miller | Executive Editor | FederalNewsRadio

November 16, 2009

The number of political appointees converting-or burrowing-into career positions is minute, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

In 2008, OPM says it reviewed 58 conversions and found only two of the required further evaluation.

This is out of more than 1,600 political positions. The minority staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reported in 2005 that the Bush administration said 1,640 positions were political appointees.

“This is not a serious problem,” says Jeff Sumberg, OPM’s deputy associate director for the Center for Merit Systems Accountability. “In the overwhelming majority of requests, we don’t find any problems and we don’t expect to. Agencies understand what the rules are and understand what the law requires.”

Then why did OPM director John Berry issue a memo Nov. 5 strengthening the rules around political conversions?

Sumberg says it’s a combination of reasons.

Specifically, Sumberg says the change follows the Obama administration’s goal of open and transparent government.

“Director Berry says it’s not enough just look at conversion cases only during presidential election year. We need to focus on merit principles all the time,” Sumberg says.

“The policy in government regarding looking at hiring of political appointees extends back to President Carter’s years. It’s about safeguarding the hiring process and paying particular attention when politicals or former politicals appointees try to get jobs.”

The new policy makes two major changes. The first is how often OPM will review proposed conversions and the second is which positions the agency will review.

Sumberg says OPM will review proposals for competitive and excepted service jobs. In the past, OPM focused only on excepted or Senior Executive Service positions.

He emphasizes that OPM did not change the fact the rule applies to not only current political positions, but anyone who has served as a political appointee in the last five years.

This requirement has been around for many years, he says.

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