Another note or two regarding OPM…   Personnel investigations were somewhat recently taken away from Defense Security Service (formerly DIS) due to the Personnel Investigations half of the agency’s lack of being able to keep up with the work load, and a lot of unpublicized fraud, waste and abuse within the management chain.  The work load and personnel were transferred over to OPM with the goal of having OPM take over all of the personnel investigations and security clearance reviews. 

 

OPM (investigations) was the first agency, years ago to impress increasingly impossible statistical standards on the employees.  This was before laptop computers.  One person who tells me they worked at a nuclear facility doing background investigations tells me she slept very little, and continued run about doing interviews all day and then dictate case information long into the night, and on weekends, 18-24 hours a day.  Employees were working many long unpaid hours in order to deal with the demands of management and the threats implied and direct, to the employees if they didn’t keep up with required loads of “statistics.”  Employees were dropping like flies, either with major health problems, including death, or leaving before they too succumbed.  Things have gone downhill since then, as after OPM got away with violating employees rights, it spread to other agencies.  And the beat goes on…. -GFS

 

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From The Washington Post

 

Link:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/12/AR2008081202999.html?wpisrc=newsletter&wpisrc=newsletter&wpisrc=newsletter

 

An Exit Interview, From the Top

By Joe Davidson
Wednesday, August 13, 2008; D01

Linda Springer says good-bye today to the Office of Personnel Management.

After three years as director of the agency, the accomplished cellist has decided to play a new tune as executive director of government and public sector advisory services for Ernst & Young. She’s come a long way from her small Haddonfield, N.J., gift shop that was once named “Philly’s Best.”

She leaves with mixed reviews.

Full of praise was Jonathan D. Breul, executive director of the IBM Center for the Business of Government. Citing her strong advocacy for President Bush’ s management agenda, Breul said that Springer “provided a real steady hand for all the blocking and tackling that’s necessary for all the challenges of management of human capital at OPM.”

But union leaders, who don’t like elements of that agenda, could only muster a lukewarm endorsement.

“While we have not always agreed with Ms. Springer’s initiatives, we did see more willingness to engage employee representatives under her tenure,” said Randy Erwin, legislative director of the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Bush has nominated Michael Hager, the Veterans Affairs assistant secretary for human resources and administration, to replace Springer, who recently met with the Diary for an exit interview on several topics.

· Her proudest accomplishment:

“I think from a people standpoint it’s reconnecting all the OPM associates around the country to the Washington office. . . . The director’s office really needed to make the effort to physically get out, to visit people, listen to them, find ways for them on a routine basis to give their input and be heard and responded to. . . . It had really become fragmented in my judgment. . . .

In the human capital surveys, the best-places-to-work surveys, OPM had slipped. . . . Now we’re having a resurgence and we’re really one agency again.”

· Other accomplishments:

“We’re certainly turning around our background investigations much faster than we did three years ago. We are making inroads in processing new retirement claims even though we have had a pause in our modernization work.”

· The retirement of baby boomers:

“We believe that it continues to be a serious issue. . . . So what are we doing? Obviously, you do things at the front end as well as at the retention end. We’re doing more in the way of reaching out to schools and recruiting. . . . We’ve done things that will speed up the hiring process. We’re testing various things that will cut down on the paperwork and the time it takes to process. . . . We have now three times the number of applications per job announcement on USAJobs ( http://www.usajobs.gov), which is the main online portal to getting federal jobs.”

· The federal hiring process:

“I think it’s improved in some cases, but I wouldn’t say significantly. We have a project going right now that’s looking end-to-end at the entire hiring process to see what the standard should be and what the best practice agencies are doing . . . .We’re also testing pilots . . . cutting down and eliminating a lot of paperwork that has to be filled out by the applicant and then reviewed by the agency.

Another pilot . . . let’s develop a common job description that can be used for all the agencies [for common positions, such as accountants]. . . . If someone applies they don’t have to answer five sets of questions to be considered for an accountant position at five different agencies.”

· Her disappointments:

“We were hopeful we could have seen the passage of the re-employed annuitant legislation that would have allowed annuitants from federal positions the ability to come back and serve their country again without having to, in effect, have an offset between the salary for their new work against their pension for their former work, which is just unfair. . . . That’s probably the biggest one.”

· Problems implementing pay for performance:

What made it difficult for the administration was that the fact we started with two very, very large agencies, with DoD and then DHS (Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security), as opposed to starting with some smaller agencies . . . and building from there. . . .

On the other hand I think D0D has done a good job. . . . DHS was more of a challenge . . . it was just coming together. So it would have been extraordinary for them to have been able to implement pay for performance while they were dealing with other organizational issues. . . . I do believe it’s the right thing to do. We have to be careful to separate evaluation of execution issues versus execution of pay for performance as a practice.”

· The General Schedule classification system:

“I think the GS system is obsolete. And it’s time for a new system that includes pay for performance.”

· On politicization of the federal workplace, as the Justice Department inspector general found in certain cases:

“Those types of things are clear violations. . . . they’re wrong. I’m not going to comment on that particular case, but there are some very clear bright-line rules about what is right or what is wrong when it comes to hiring and promotions. . . . OPM stands behind those rules 1,000 percent.”

Joe Davidson can be reached atfederaldiary@washpost.com.

 

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