Agencies offer reassurance to employees impacted by Trump reorganization plans

The Trump administration this week offered its first concrete plans to reorganize and restructure government agencies to become more efficient and effective.

Though the Office of Management Budget detailed 34 reorganization ideas, many questions remain. And since acting on most of these plans requires congressional approval, many of these proposals may never become a reality.

Regardless, change is difficult, as several agency leaders said in emails, which Federal News Radio obtained, to their staff following the administration’s release of its long-awaited reorganization report.

“It is understandable if news of this nature is unsettling, but it is our intention to provide as much information as possible today and answer as many questions as we can,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue wrote in an email Friday morning to USDA employees. “This is not something that will happen overnight, and these ideas should be viewed as the beginning of a long conversation.”

The Trump administration proposed moving nutrition assistance programs out of Agriculture to a newly named Health and Public Welfare Department, moving all federal food safety functions under one entity within USDA and transferring other offices within the department’s current structure to other agencies.

“Naturally, these are some questions about what this means for USDA,” Perdue wrote. “The announced proposals do not contemplate the elimination of any positions. And importantly, you should know that the possible rearrangement of federal functions in no way reflects a judgment on the way you do your jobs.”

In a Thursday call with reporters, Deputy OMB Director for Management Margaret Weichert also said the reorganization plans are not an attempt to cut federal jobs.

Various leaders within the Office of Personnel Management also offered words of reassurance.

The Trump administration proposed moving much of OPM’s current functions to other parts of government. Two of the agency’s fee-for-service offices would be moved under the reorganization plan, including the governmentwide security clearance portfolio.

The Trump administration has been considering this move for some time. Both the National Background and Investigations Bureau (NBIB) and the Defense Security Service (DSS) have already been working together to carry out the congressionally-mandated transfer of all defense-related security clearances from OPM and NBIB to the Pentagon.

But after more review, the administration decided it would be best to keep the entire governmentwide security clearance program intact and under one organization, NBIB Director Charlie Phalen and DSS Director Dan Payne wrote in a June 21 letter, which Federal News Radio obtained, to their employees.

DSS will essentially absorb the NBIB and its staff. The process will be “collaborative” and will “require coordination” to prepare employees for the coming changes, the directors said.

The effective date for the transfer hasn’t been determined. But in the mean time, the agencies have set up working groups that will determine more specific details of the transfer, the directors said.

“It is important for everyone to understand that with the consolidation of this mission in DoD, we collectively have an unprecedented opportunity to modernize and reform background investigations across the federal government,” Phalen and Payne wrote. “A strong NBIB-DoD team is our best combination for success. Our goals are to ensure this transfer is seamless and transparent, and to avoid interruptions to our missions or impact to our customers.”

Phalen and Payne said they’re planning to visit field locations for both agencies to discuss the move further.

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“We understand the importance of open and transparent communication with all NBIB and DoD personnel and will provide you frequent updates and future opportunities to get answers to the questions you will have as we progress,” the directors said.

Leadership within HR Solutions, another one of OPM’s fee-for-service operations that may experience changes under the administration’s reorganization plan, also promised employees it would stay in communication.

“I recognize that change is personal and can be tough and difficult,” James McPherson, deputy associate director for OPM’s Training and Management Assistance Program, wrote in an email to employees. “We will work through these changes together. As of today, no changes have occurred in our organizational structure and with our team members.”

The Trump administration proposed moving HR Solutions from OPM to the General Services Administration, newly renamed as the “Government Services Agency.”

HR Solutions leadership is scheduled to hold a call with employees on Monday. McPherson said he expects to receive more information about the impact of these proposed changes at OPM’s planned executive meetings in Charlottesville, Virginia, next week, the email said.

In the mean time, McPherson encouraged employees to give their jobs their best effort and exceed their customers’ expectations.

“That’s what you and I can control,” he said.