Watchdog finds OPM officials violated appropriations law during 2020 restructure

GAO says lawmakers were not sufficiently notified by Trump Administration officials about plans to reallocate funds.

The Office of Personnel Management violated congressional law when it eliminated an office and reorganized functions including a component of the CIO’s office, according to a government watchdog.

In a decision published Thursday, the Government Accountability Office found the agency failed to consult with House and Senate committees on appropriations when it carried out major reorganization work during fiscal year 2020.

The failure to adhere to the legislation occurred as the Trump administration sought to merge the Office of Personnel Management to become a sub-agency of the General Services Administration and slim down federal government spending.  

OPM in May 2020 eliminated its Office of Strategy and Innovation (OSI) and moved several functions including the Office of the Chief Information Officer’s federal data solutions component to its Human Resources Line of Business.


Under Section 608 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act 2020, federal agencies must consult with Congress before closing departments or making any other major organizational changes.

“[W]e conclude that OPM violated section 608 when it failed to consult with the Committees on Appropriations before it undertook its significant restructuring and reorganization during fiscal year 2020,” said GAO in its report.

The watchdog added that the agency also “reprogrammed amounts to institute its restructuring and reorganization without obtaining prior approval from the Committees on Appropriations.”

According to GAO, eliminating OSI meant that the agency shifted funds between the internal organizations identified in its financial operating plan, which had not been agreed upon by lawmakers.

Under proposals led by then-acting Director Margaret Weichert, OPM’s budget would have been shrunk and the agency’s IT systems would have become part of a standalone function at GSA.


Trump abandoned the effort to abolish the agency in late 2019. At the time, the White House had hoped that closing the 5,500-strong federal department could serve as a blueprint for trimming spending across government.

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