A White House official was short on answers during a Senate hearing but said background checks and cyber workforce are a good place to start.
The Trump administration’s plan to reorganize the federal government is still in its very early stages, a White House official told lawmakers Wednesday, but proposals to reform background checks and cybersecurity should get started sooner rather than later.
Transferring responsibility for federal background checks to the Defense Department and filling the government’s cyber workforce gaps are at the front of the line among 32 proposals in the reorganization plan, Margaret Weichert, the top White House management official, told members of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee.
The administration has already begun the first part of the cyber workforce plan by polling agencies about skills gaps among their current cybersecurity employees, Weichert said.
The reorganization plan’s longer-term cyber workforce goal is to standardize cyber job categories using a framework developed by the Commerce Department and to make those jobs more competitive by reducing hiring bureaucracy and raising pay.
A third near-term priority is to develop a governmentwide plan to improve customer experience, Weichert said during the first formal congressional review of the administration’s controversial reorganization surge.
The hearing grew contentious when committee Democrats complained that the Trump administration hadn’t fleshed out many of its 32 proposals. Trump officials haven’t shared the underlying data that led to those proposals or if the administration was advised by conservative think tanks and policy organizations, the committee’s ranking member Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said.
And when it comes to the current status of the cyber workforce, Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., questioned whether the administration even has the data necessary to make decisions. Hassan has been pressing the Office of Personnel Management for months to get information on the size of the federal cyber workforce but has yet to be successful, she said.
“As far as I can tell, the information doesn’t yet exist,” she said.
Weichert replied that many of the proposals just represent early thinking about government reform efforts and that the administration will share underlying data once the proposals are more fleshed out.
“We can’t make decision on [sharing] data if we’re a mile deep in one place and an inch deep in another place,” she said.
Among the 32 proposals, there are roughly a dozen that the administration expects it can implement without legislative help through executive and administrative actions, Weichert said. She declined to specify which proposals that applies to, though.
The reorganization plan, released last month, includes major overhauls, such as merging the Education and Labor departments and privatizing the U.S. Postal Service but also included numerous tech and cyber changes.
Nextgov Senior Editor Aaron Boyd contributed to this report.