A modernized 'Plum Book' will provide more updated, accurate information on top agency officials.
A new website has made available a database of anyone serving in a top-ranking position in the federal government, offering new insight that advocates said will boost transparency and better prepare new administrations to transition into power.
The Office of Personnel Management launched the site to comply with the Periodically Listing Updates to Management (PLUM) Act, which so far includes the names, roles and pay levels of more than 8,000 executives in government.
OPM said that figure will grow to 10,000 as it ensures compliance and updates the list over the coming months. It will include senior leaders at every federal agency, including all 4,000 political appointees, Senior Executive Service members and other top or non-competitively appointed officials.
President Eisenhower first requested in 1952 a list of every position he would have to fill for his administration and the resulting document became known as the “Plum Book” for both its color and because it was made up of the most “plum” jobs in government. It has since been updated only every four years in the months before a presidential election, though watchdogs have complained the book is too infrequently published, instantly outdated and riddled with errors.
OPM will update the new, digital database annually. It is tasked with ensuring information is accurate and up to date, though each agency must submit its own information. It will include both past and current members of the administration and allow users to search previous positions each individual has held. It will identify vacant positions, as well as individuals serving in temporary positions.
Over the next 90 days, OPM, in conjunction with the White House Presidential Personnel Office, will review all 10,000 positions covered under the PLUM Act and ensure the database is accurate and complete. It expects some hiccups as it gets the site fully up and running, but has a plan to complete its work by the summer.
While an initial version of the site is operational and searchable, OPM said it must still add new positions not previously included in the PLUM Book, vacancy data and salary details for some individuals. OPM has also said agencies can use the new database to better ensure compliance with rules regarding political appointees to attempt to “burrow in” to career roles at their agencies.
“Once fully updated and content-verified, the website will improve government transparency by giving the public a more up-to-date look at leadership in federal agencies, including the administration’s top leaders, political appointees and other senior positions in the federal civil service,” said Mariam Siddiqui, an OPM spokesperson.
Troy Cribb, the director of public policy at the Partnership for Public Service who has held multiple top agency positions, has celebrated the PLUM Act as a modern replacement for the Plum Book and its failings. She said the measure would provide more updated information about government leaders and allow OPM to fix errors more quickly. The digital, machine-readable formatting will also allow for more sophisticated searches.
“Undoubtedly, the launch of the PLUM Act’s new, improved directory will pave the way for future advancements in transparency on the organization and leadership of our nation’s government,” Cribb said. “Finally, President Eisenhower’s vision for a comprehensive federal leadership directory will come to fruition in a way that meets today’s expectations.”
Some Republicans opposed the passage of the PLUM Act, fearing the transparency would dissuade some individuals from entering government service. Congress ultimately approved it as part of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.