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Our Director Director's Blog

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Background with storm clouds, with the phrase 'Domestic Violence Awareness' phrase in purple, next to a purple ribbon and in the bottom right corner

We all know that domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking (DVSAS) are significant problems that affect individuals, families, and communities. The unfortunate reality is that – whether we know it or not – at some point in our careers most of us likely will have a colleague who has experienced or is experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The effects of such violence often don’t just remain within the walls of the home.  They affect all of us who live and work with victims and survivors, their children, and other loved ones. To do our part in providing all employees with a safe and supportive workplace, OPM and DOJ have announced a new online training to educate Federal employees and managers on this sensitive topic.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and whether DVSAS has affected you personally, a family member or friend, this issue is unfortunately, extremely prevalent in today’s society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on average, 20 people per minute in the United States are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner and domestic violence costs our nation approximately $8 billion a year in lost productivity and health care costs. CDC data finds that more than one in three women and more than one in four men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

As the largest employer in the nation, the Federal Government has a duty to promote the health and safety of its employees by providing support and assistance to those whose working lives are affected by DVSAS. In his 2012 “Presidential Memorandum on Establishing Policies for Addressing Domestic Violence in the Federal Workforce,” the President made this issue a priority, saying, “The Federal Government should act as a model in responding to the effects of domestic violence on its workforce. Agencies have taken steps to address this issue and by building on these important efforts and existing policies, the Federal Government can further address the effects of domestic violence on its workforce.”

The memorandum directs Federal agencies to consider implementing programs to educate and train supervisors, human resources personnel, and employees about the effects of DVSAS in the workplace. As a result of this directive, OPM partnered with DOJ’s Office on Violence against Women to provide agencies with guidance and technical assistance in developing their internal human resources policies supporting employees that may be victims or survivors. The newly released online training is a strong step forward in helping fulfill the President’s goal. 

The interactive and informative training shows how DVSAS is a workplace issue, gives signs and symptoms of DVSAS to watch out for, describes how to maintain confidentiality in the workplace, and identifies the internal and external resources available to assist employees and managers dealing with this issue.

I encourage all Federal employees to complete the training, which approaches the DVSAS topic in a realistic way. It is available government-wide through HR University.

DVSAS is not only a personal issue, it is a workplace issue. At OPM, across the government, and in other places of employment, we need to work together to ensure our employees have a safe and nurturing environment in which to work. With this training, and the agency-specific DVSAS workplace policies, we will be at the forefront of preparing the workforce for proactive and effective response to potential DVSAS-related incidents they may encounter in the workplace.

A gold background on the left with the NBIB seal in dark blue. The right half has a navy blue background with the white text National Background Investigations Bureau and in the right corner.

Earlier this year, the Administration announced a series of policy decisions to streamline and enhance how the Federal government conducts background investigations. A central component in this effort is the establishment of the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), a new semi-autonomous entity within the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). NBIB will be the primary provider of effective, efficient, and secure background investigations for the Federal Government. NBIB is designed with an enhanced focus on national security, customer service, and continuous process improvement to meet this critical government-wide need now and in the future.

Today, the President took the next step in this effort by issuing an Executive Order (EO) that sets forth the new interagency framework to modernize, strengthen and secure the Federal Government’s background investigation process, including the roles and responsibilities for NBIB and for DoD’s related IT efforts.

In addition, the Administration is announcing the appointment of Charles S. Phalen, Jr. as NBIB’s first Director. Mr. Phalen brings a wealth of experience and security expertise from the Federal Government and the private sector to NBIB. As Director of Security for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 2007 to 2011, he led the CIA’s world-wide security program, responsible for investigating and clearing agency personnel and protecting the workforce and agency facilities. From 2011 until April of 2016, Mr. Phalen served as Vice President of Corporate Security at the Northrop Grumman Corporation, and has continued to participate in several industry security organizations. In his new role, Mr. Phalen will leverage his deep expertise in personnel security, information security, and physical security from both the Federal Government and industry as he leads NBIB in its mission to deliver modernized, timely, quality background investigations.

Mr. Phalen will take the helm of NBIB, which will be headquartered in Washington D.C., beginning on October 1st, when NBIB absorbs the existing mission, functions, and personnel of OPM’s Federal Investigative Services (FIS) and begins to implement a number of changes designed to improve the background investigations process.

NBIB will feature a new organizational structure that institutionalizes strategic stakeholder engagement, an agile acquisition strategy, and the use of innovative, data-driven methods to make improvements in processes.  These aspects will be critical as the new organization assumes responsibility for managing the fieldwork contracts OPM recently awarded and other important initiatives to improve capacity and draw down the current backlog of investigations. 

Key aspects of NBIB that distinguish it from the previous organization include:

  • Enhanced IT security through continued partnership with DOD. NBIB and the Department of Defense (DoD) will work in close collaboration to develop the next generation IT digital platform that will be modern, secure and mission-driven. The digital environment will be built on a foundation of government-wide standards that promote security, interoperability, and information sharing that are the key principles outlined in the Performance Accountability Council (PAC) Enterprise IT Strategy.
  • Creation of a law enforcement liaison unit to improve criminal history records access and information exchanges in a digitized platform. A major component of the work done by NBIB will involve the acquisition and management of records from a variety of sources, including its counterparts in law enforcement. It is vital that background investigators have the critical Criminal History Records Information (CHRI) from state and local law enforcement agencies in order to have complete data with which to conduct their investigations. One key to improving the timeliness of investigations is the ability to obtain these records through automated databases and exchanges, which currently in many communities can only be obtained by field investigators.
  • Creation of an office to lead the way in automation and management of background investigation records collection. The establishment of a Federal Investigative Records Enterprise (FIRE) office will equip NBIB to lead the way in automation and management of government-wide investigative records collection and retention. NBIB’s FIRE office will promote records automation and an increased focus on information sharing agreements with interagency partners, state and local entities, and commercial records providers. The FIRE will be dedicated to standardizing data exchanges for records information as a hallmark of the investigations enterprise, leveraging new and evolving data sources such as social media checks.  The FIRE will work closely with the newly established Law Enforcement Liaison Office to promote and augment cooperative exchanges of vital records in a digitized platform.
  • Establishment of a Business Transformation Unit dedicated to transforming business processes to be more efficient. Business Process Reengineering methodologies will identify needs and requirements that improve the timeliness and cost of investigations.  Working with NBIB’s interagency partners, the unit will strategically migrate traditional investigative processes to leverage continuously available data sources and new sources of relevant information. NBIB’s policy function will employ analytics for effective data-driven policies and decisions.  
  • Reorganized field operations to consolidate management of federal and contract field operations. NBIB will consolidate management of Federal and contract investigative functions under a single organization. This provides better organizational alignment and facilitates efforts to synchronize workload management efforts on a global scale across NBIB’s multiple investigative resources and to leverage new tools for workload management as they are designed and built.  Management of the counterintelligence activity function will also be streamlined to focus on important national security and other interagency engagement.
  • Establishment of a dedicated Customer Engagement unit focused on customer service delivery. This unit will embed interagency representation of skilled and experienced personnel from stakeholder agencies. An Interagency Customer Service Advisory Board (ICSAB) will be established to advise the NBIB Director on issues relevant to customer service.
  • Dedicated support to NBIB.  As announced earlier this year, NBIB will have dedicated resources to support its mission and provide NBIB the ability to function effectively and efficiently. It will have its own procurement staff and contracting activity, as well as a senior privacy official, while continuing to leverage the shared services within OPM. NBIB will have dedicated support personnel in the areas of legal counsel, communications, congressional affairs, and human resources.
  • Consolidating Suitability Executive Agent.  OPM will form a dedicated Suitability Executive Agent entity to consolidate and enhance the suitability policy, oversight, and adjudications functions. This dedicated unit will report to the OPM Director, and provide agencies expanded guidance on policies and processes related to suitability. It will also engage in a two-way dialogue with agencies to identify opportunities to further modernize and make more efficient processes and tools used for suitability decisions.

The changes announced today are designed to focus on the integration of innovation and continuous business process improvement to enhance the delivery of background investigations and support an efficient and effective organization that is keenly focused on customer service and national security. The NBIB’s Director will continue the close working relationship between OPM and DoD in its significant IT leadership role and regularly consult with the larger federal community as it implements these changes to modernize and strengthen the way we conduct background investigations.

Light blue background with an open lock to the left. On the lock it says FEVS. In the top right corner are graph icons in circles. On the bottom is a dark blue footer that says: OPM.GOV/FEVS and #FEVS. In the middle of the graphic in white text it says: Underneath it says: Visualization Tool, in all caps in dark blue text. Underneath it says: Agency level results now available in white text.

Having an engaged workforce is critical to each agency’s ability to achieve its mission of providing excellent service to the American people. The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results provide a window into how engaged and satisfied the Federal workforce is.

Today, the Office of Personnel Management is releasing agency-level results of the 2016 FEVS. The results are available at, the comprehensive, interactive visualization dashboard that helps government leaders make data-driven decisions and design initiatives to improve overall engagement and employee satisfaction at Federal agencies.

Last week we previewed the FEVS data which, for the second year, shows Federal employees are more satisfied with their jobs and feel more engaged in their workplaces.

Below, two of my colleagues whose agencies have worked hard to respond to their FEVS results outline what steps they took to sustain and improve their engagement scores. Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, shares the work he and his team have done to improve their FEVS results and Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, describes how his agency consistently maintains high engagement scores, Their perspectives are just two examples of the continuing commitment of leaders across government – working with their staffs and in partnership with labor – to improving employee engagement of their workforce.

From Secretary Johnson:

Improving morale within the Department of Homeland Security has been one of my top priorities as Secretary.  I have said many times that, this year, morale will improve.  Our aggressive campaign to improve morale across this 22-component, 232,000-person workforce has produced results.

Today the Office of Personnel Management released the 2016 results for the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS).  These results reflect that employee engagement at DHS, after six straight years of decline, went up three whole percentage points this year – from 53 percent in 2015 to 56 percent this year.  This is no anomaly.  It is regarded by OPM as statistically significant, and compares favorably to the 1 percent increase across the entire U.S. government.  This increased morale at DHS was the result of some very hard work, and is the largest increase of any Cabinet Department our size.   

Hopefully, these improved results are the beginning of a new, upward trend.  I hope the next Secretary of Homeland Security continues to make employee morale a top priority.

Of particular note:

  • DHS leaders told our employees that their views mattered to us, and that we wanted to hear from them this year.  In response, DHS’s participation in FEVS went up from 47.1 percent last year (compared to 49.7 percent government-wide) to 50.1 percent this year (compared to 45.8 percent government-wide).   
  • Survey results for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (a 19,000-person agency) went up 7 percent --from 48 percent last year to 55 percent this year. Much of this increase came from within ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).  Over the last two years, ERO has responded effectively to my new immigration enforcement priorities that have focused more sharply on public safety and border security.  At the same time, we have reformed the pay scale for ERO officers, to reflect the good work they do for public safety.  
  • The Secret Service ended a multi-year slide in employee satisfaction.  In 2013, it was 62 percent  in 2014 it was 56 percent; in 2015 it was 49 percent.  This year employee satisfaction at the Secret Service came in at 50 percent.  Within DHS, the Secret Service saw the biggest survey participation increase, from 41.8 percent last year to 59.0 percent this year. 

From NASA Administrator Bolden

“NASA is proud to have been named the “Best Place to Work” in the Federal Government (among large agencies) for the past four consecutive years by the Partnership for Public Service. Using the FEVS as a focal point for guidance, over time we have developed a positive work culture with a high level of employee engagement through deliberate, proactive initiatives.

I’ve always told our employees that their voices matter.  At NASA, it’s especially critical, as much of our work is difficult and dangerous and sometimes lives are in the balance.  We must have a culture where speaking up and providing feedback is encouraged.  I’ve made nurturing that culture a centerpiece of my leadership and we created a Workforce Culture Strategy to communicate and codify these values. 

With some 18,000 employees at NASA, getting feedback can be daunting and the EVS helps provide a vehicle where people feel they can be candid and offer constructive comments without putting themselves or their jobs at risk.  We use it to help offices within our organization to improve and to share their successes. At NASA, we consider ourselves a family and, like any family, there can be some bumps in the road.  The EVS helps us get past them.

Based on last year’s employee feedback, we focused this year on second-level performance reviews to support and encourage fairness in ratings and we created a Leader’s Handbook to guide supervisors and employees, and to foster organizational health.

I’m still listening – and feel privileged to be working with such a talented, creative workforce.  The best part of serving as NASA Administrator continues to be witnessing how open and honest opinions and ideas have changed NASA for the better.  Our entire NASA senior leadership team sincerely cares about our workforce’s opinions and is ready to take action.”

I want to thank my colleagues and their teams for using the FEVS to make progress on employee engagement. I know agency leaders across government are using this important tool to make similar strides. All of us need to work each and every day to make sure the talented people who work for the Federal Government feel valued, included, and engaged in their jobs.


Yellow background that fades to a deep orange. On the left are strings, multi-color that twist down. One red string moves over and forms line across in the letter A in the word America, written in blue cursive text. On the right in white text in all caps are the words embracing, enriching and enabling. Then the cursive America is underneath.

As we recognize National Hispanic Heritage Month, I want to take this opportunity to reinforce our commitment to help agencies across government inspire people from all communities, including Hispanics, to pursue a career in Federal service.

The President is committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce and throughout his Administration he has reached out to incredibly talented Hispanics to help lead our government. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Administrator of the Small Business Administration Maria Contreras-Sweet, and White House Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz are just a few leaders that epitomize the rich diversity of this Administration. Their leadership has not only been critical to our ability to provide excellent service to the American people, but they continue to serve as incredible role models for all those already serving this nation and those considering a career in Federal service.

As the President said in his proclamation celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month: “This month, let us reflect on the countless ways in which Hispanics have contributed to our nation’s success, and let us reaffirm our commitment to expanding opportunity and building an ever bright future for all.”

We want to inspire students still in school and those contemplating careers in the Federal service. To kick-off Hispanic Heritage Month OPM, in conjunction with Adelante, our Hispanic Employee Resource Group, will be hosting a student forum on Monday, September 19. I want to thank our partners who helped develop this program: the National Association of Hispanic Employees (NAHE), the Departments of State and the Interior, the Hispanic Employees Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies (HECFAA), and Prospanica D.C.

This forum will introduce students to the robust set of programs called Pathways that help students from high school through post-graduate school try out Federal service through a paid internship. Pathways also provides an entree into the Federal Government for recent graduates. The Presidential Management Fellows program is our premier leadership development program for recent advanced degree holders.

Monday’s forum will feature a panel of Federal leaders who will talk about their experience in the Federal Government and provide students with some advice about their own career paths.

The forum is open to current students who can participate in person at OPM headquarters or via webcast. For more information visit:

You can help us ensure every community is represented in government. Reach out to students, recent graduates, and others in your communities and tell them about the opportunities in Federal service. Reach out to your colleagues in the Federal Government and enlist them to act as ambassadors for the Federal service.

We will continue to focus on the recruitment of Hispanic Americans as part of our overall effort to recruit top talent for the Federal workforce.

So as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s remember that we need a workforce that reflects the diversity and cultures of our communities. As the President says in his proclamation: “Let us embrace the diversity that strengthens us and continue striving to ensure the American dream is within reach for generations of Hispanics to come.”

Background is three rectangles, two on top and one below. Top left rectangle is magenta and says 2016. Top right rectangle is gray, with the text

As we get ready to release the agency-by-agency Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results for 2016 on Tuesday, September 20, I’m excited to share a little preview of the data that shows for the second year Federal employees are more satisfied with their jobs and feel more engaged in their workplaces.

In 2016, 65 percent of the Federal employees surveyed said they are engaged in their workplace. That’s an increase government-wide of one percentage point over 2015 and is two percentage points higher than in 2014. Some individual agencies saw even larger increases.

This is a positive trend that we can build on. These results illustrate that employees across Federal agencies are more engaged in their workplaces and more satisfied with their jobs than they were a year ago. The results also show that what Federal employees tell us about their workplaces and their leaders matter. Federal leaders heard you and put in place initiatives designed to improve employee engagement. The 2016 results show those efforts are making a difference.

FEVS is a confidential survey that measures engagement by asking employees a range of questions to better understand, for example, if their managers communicate the goals and priorities of their organization, their supervisors support employee development, and their work gives them a feeling of personal accomplishment.  Such feedback is essential for agencies to find both what engagement efforts are working and pinpoint areas that need improvement.

So, what is Employee Engagement and why is it important?

Essentially, employee engagement captures the employees’ relationship with their work and the workplace.  It is employees’ sense of purpose and is displayed in their dedication, persistence and effort or overall attachment to their organization and its mission. Private sector studies have shown a link between employee engagement and increased productivity and improved customer satisfaction ratings. 

Having an engaged workforce is critical to the Federal Government’s ability to fulfill our mission to serve the American people. Engaged employees more likely to give their best, work more effectively in teams, share their ideas and creativity, and contribute more at work.

Given the challenges facing our nation and the Federal workforce, it is essential that we foster a culture of excellence and support our employees so they can reach their full potential.

Stay tuned. Next week we will share agency-specific data on, the interactive dashboard that allows employees and leaders to track employee engagement agency-wide and within individual offices. Through the Fall we will continue to add more detailed information to the site.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the 2016 FEVS.  I also want to thank the supervisors, managers, and leaders across government who have taken the results of last year’s FEVS to heart and worked to make sure their employees are better engaged, satisfied and happy on the job. And I want to thank all our dedicated Federal employees for the work they do every day to serve this great country. 

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