Biden names nominee for long-vacant watchdog position at federal personnel agency
President Joe Biden on Thursday made a nomination to fill the long-vacant position of inspector general at the Office of Personnel Management, a watchdog office that has at times publicly clashed with top management of the federal agency.
Nominee Krista Boyd is chief counsel for oversight and policy on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which oversees federal workplace matters. Boyd has worked on Capitol Hill for more than two decades with a focus on issues including whistleblower protection, transparency and strengthening the access to agency information for inspectors general and other watchdogs, an announcement said.
The position has been filled on only an acting basis since the 2016 retirement of the prior IG, Patrick E. McFarland, who had held the post since 1990. That makes it the third-longest of the more than a dozen vacancies among IG positions, which are largely independent of agency management.
Much of the office’s work is routine, such as auditing the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and other employee benefits programs. However, the inspector general’s office was a major force in investigations into breaches revealed in 2015 of OPM databases containing personal information on more than 20 million people. That incident ultimately triggered the retirement or resignation of several senior OPM officials including the director.
The IG’s work was a main focus of often-contentious congressional hearings, with members of both parties stressing that the office had warned that the databases were vulnerable to just the sort of breaches that ultimately occurred. The office afterward issued a series of reports criticizing management’s response, including how OPM contracted to provide identity monitoring and other services to victims.
More recently, the IG said that OPM should have taken stronger safety precautions when it returned some employees to on-site work last year after initial office closings in response to the pandemic. And last year it criticized the agency for shifting some OPM operations to the General Services Administration under a Trump administration plan to break up the OPM even though Congress had ordered an indefinite delay.
As of March, the office reported that OPM has not carried out more than 400 of its recommendations in areas such as information security, financial reporting, contract management and improper payment of benefits.
Boyd’s name is now added to a long list of nominations for positions important to federal employees awaiting action by the Senate.
Most notably, that list includes nominees for all three positions on the governing board of the Merit Systems Protection Board, which hears appeals of disciplinary actions taken against federal employees. That board has lacked a quorum since early 2017 and has been empty since early 2019, resulting in a backlog of more than 3,400 cases; some employees have appealed directly in federal court instead.
Also pending before the Senate are nominees for all five seats on the board that oversees the Thrift Savings Plan, the 401(k)-style retirement savings plan for civil service and military personnel, and for two of the three seats on the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which decides on disputes between unions and management in the federal workplace.
Both of those boards are continuing to operate in the meantime, however. Four of the five TSP board seats are being filled on a holdover basis, including one member whom Biden has nominated for another term.
The FLRA board is also filled, but Biden’s nominations would change control of that board from Republican to Democrat by replacing a GOP member continuing as a holdover. The other nomination would be for another term of the current sole Democrat whom Biden earlier named as chairman.
OPM Director Kiran Ahuja was confirmed in June on a party-line vote. There has been no nomination for the OPM deputy director position, however.