Committee Sends Letters to Agencies Regarding “Burrowing”

Published: Jul 20, 2016

Requests information on conversions of employees from non-career, political positions to career positions

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) sent letters to 23 of the 24 executive-branch agencies subject to the Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act of 1990 regarding personnel conversions from non-career, political positions to career positions. A similar letter was sent on June 30, 2016 to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Key excerpt from the letters:

 “Such conversions, sometimes referred to as burrowing, run the risk of favoring political staff at the expense of more qualified career applicants. Conversions also create morale problems, in that qualified career applicants who lose out on promotions to applicants from the agency’s political staff can rightly wonder if the process was legitimate. The appointing officials must ensure each conversion of a political appointee to a career position results from a fair and open competition.  Hiring decisions must be free from political interference, legitimate, and justified.” 

The Committee requested the following information from each of the agencies:

·         All documents showing the number of political appointees who were converted to career positions or non-political excepted service positions from September 1, 2015 to the present.

·         All documents, including emails, that explain the outcome of each pre-employment review, an explanation for each case not approved, and all corrective action requested by OPM of appointing agencies.

·         All documents which show a list of each political appointee converted to a career senior executive or non-political excepted service position for which the appointing agency did not provide sufficient information to justify the employment action, broken down by agency, title, type of position, date of conversion, salary, and political position being vacated.

The letter was sent to the following agencies:

Department of Agriculture

Department of Commerce

Department of Defense

Department of Education

Department of Energy

Department of Health and Human Services

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Department of the Interior

Department of Justice

Department of Labor

Department of State

Department of Transportation

Department of the Treasury

Department of Veterans Affairs

Environmental Protection Agency

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Agency for International Development

General Services Administration

National Science Foundation

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Small Business Administration

Social Security Administration