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Our Director Director's Blog

Welcome! We are committed to recruiting and retaining a world-class workforce for the American people.

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Graphic with a bridge that reads: Fiscal Year 2016 Budget of The U.S. Government

Customer service is at the core of everything we do at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The President’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal released this week embraces that core principle and provides additional funding for OPM’s efforts to improve customer service for Federal retirees and their families.

Each year, more than 1.5 million current or retired Federal employees and their families call OPM’s Retirement Services team with a wide range of questions. We also receive more than 280,000 questions via email and more than 100,000 new retirement claims each year. Requests for assistance range from tax questions to inquiries about what happens when a Federal retiree has passed away. And we hear from Federal employees who have detailed questions at each step in the retirement process.

Each of these interactions is important, and every one of these individuals is entitled to a timely, accurate, and detailed response. At OPM, we are consistently working to improve the quality of this experience for our customers. The President’s budget provides additional funding to help us decrease the amount of time a customer has to wait to talk to a representative or get a response to their email. And, the added resources will help us reduce the time it takes to process a retirement claim.

At Retirement Services, 80 percent of our budget is devoted to personnel. But, at certain times in the year that is not enough and we need to add to our customer service staff to help handle spikes in retirement claims.

For example, the beginning of each year is the busiest, with 26 percent of retirement claims being filed during the first six weeks of the year. In January, we brought detailees on board from the human resources retirement sections of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) to help us handle the dramatic increase in claims.

While we certainly benefit from the dedication of these public servants, their service also improves the entire retirement process. When they return to their home agencies, they bring with them increased knowledge of our process, enabling them to better prepare retirement claims for processing by OPM.

We are constantly working to improve the customer experience. We are administering surveys and analyzing the data to identify customer service trends and to zero in on areas where improvement and change is needed. We are also updating our training and are tracking the progress of employees who take our customer service courses.

Retirement Services is also consistently upgrading and adding features to our Retirement Services Online website servicesonline.opm.gov and providing web-based tutorials for customers. Retirees can use the website to update their mailing addresses, change their Federal and state income tax withholding designations, request a duplicate annuity booklet or print their Retirement Services ID card. The more retirees and their families turn to our online services for basic needs, the quicker our team can respond to more complex questions.

We want the customer service experience to be excellent for each Federal employee who has served this great nation and deserves to receive accurate and timely benefits. The President’s FY2017 budget will help us deliver on this important goal.



Do you have something red to wear? Friday, February 5 is National Wear Red Day, a day when wearing red raises awareness about the risks of cardiovascular disease and promotes the importance of heart health, including a lifestyle that reduces the risk of developing heart disease. February is also American Heart Month, when the nation shines a spotlight on the need to promote a heart healthy lifestyle.

Cardiovascular disease is the Number 1 killer of women and men in the United States. Each of us can lower our risk of developing heart disease by knowing the risk factors and warning signs. You can lower the risk of developing heart disease by:

  • Watching your weight
  • Quitting smoking and staying away from secondhand smoke.
  • Controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Getting active and eating healthy

While you may be seeing an increased focus on heart health this month, workplaces across the Federal Government and the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program participate in programs that help our Federal family improve their heart health throughout the year. Many Federal agencies participate in StairWELL, a program that encourages employees to use the stairs while at work, and offer stress management, nutrition, and heart health education classes. All FEHB plans offer 100 percent coverage for comprehensive tobacco cessation services. This is a particularly powerful benefit because quitting smoking is associated with reducing the risk for heart disease within one to two years, as well as a reduced risk for lung cancer and many other types of cancers.

OPM is an active member of the National Prevention Council and supports the Surgeon General’s priorities to improve the health of all Americans. OPM is also a partner in the Million Hearts Initiative and we invite you to visit the Million Hearts website to learn more about preventing heart disease. Together, we can improve our health and the health of our loved ones.


2016 National African American History Month graphic featuring 'Hallowed Ground.'

As we begin the annual celebration of African American History Month, we can all be proud of the diversity of our Federal workforce and encourage all Americans to celebrate the leaders who risked their lives to fight for equality for all Americans, regardless of race.

African American leaders have had a significant impact on this country by serving in the Federal Government. From former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to President Obama, to name just a few, these inspiring men and women have changed the course of American history by breaking down racial barriers as they dedicated their lives to public service.

The theme for this year’s African American History Month, “Hallowed Grounds – Sites of African American Memories,” calls on us to remember the landmark locations across the country where African Americans struggled for freedom and justice. These historic sites include stops along the Underground Railroad, Frederick Douglass’ home in Washington, D.C., and the famous Beale Street in Memphis, located just six blocks from where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, now home to the National Civil Rights Museum.

In his annual Proclamation commemorating National African American History Month, the President encourages us by saying: “As we mark the 40th year of National African American History Month, let us reflect on the sacrifices and contributions made by generations of African Americans, and let us resolve to continue our march toward a day when every person knows the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

One of OPM’s most important missions is to help agencies across government recruit, hire, and retain a dedicated workforce that draws on the skills, character, and experiences of people of all communities in this great nation. Nearly 18 percent of the Federal Workforce is African American. But we know that African Americans are underrepresented in leadership roles and OPM is working with a number of employee and support groups on an Senior Executive Service development program to address this gap.

At OPM, one of the ways we will commemorate this important month will be by hearing from civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, one of our nation’s trailblazer Freedom Riders. In 1961, Mulholland was a 19-year-old Duke University student who had arrived in Jackson, Miss. as part of the Mississippi Freedom Ride. During the course of that summer, African American and white civil rights activists coordinated bus trips throughout the South to protest segregation in bus terminals.

The group gained worldwide attention when blacks used “whites-only” restrooms and lunch counters, a challenge to the Jim Crow laws that had been in place since the late 1870’s. They were met with violent protestors, and in some cases, such as Mulholland’s, they were arrested for their heroic actions. But due to their determination and dedication to right a wrong, by late that summer, segregation in bus and train stations was prohibited.

To learn more about Mulholland’s incredible story and her fellow Freedom Riders, check out the American Experience: Freedom Riders documentary from PBS.

Throughout the month of February and during the rest of the year, I hope all of us will take some time to reflect on those who sacrificed so much to create a more inclusive and supportive country for us all.


Mentoring is a two-way street. There are times in all our careers when we need help and guidance from a colleague or friend. And, we can learn as much from those we mentor as we can from those who advise us.

January is National Mentoring Month. Since 2010, the President has called on us to set aside time to communicate how mentoring can help us give back, support each other, and develop a world-class Federal workforce.

The Administration believes in mentoring. The President launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative that focuses on helping our youth, including through mentorship relationships. The First Lady leads the “Reach Higher” initiative that encourages campus groups and college students to connect with high school students who need role models who can help them envision a college degree.

At OPM, we are helping agencies and employees across government encourage and institute ways to match mentors and mentees and learn more about the value of mentoring.

Since last summer, we have been piloting a government-wide mentoring hub that brings together mentors and mentees. We plan to launch this program across government later this year. We have also developed the SES Situational Mentoring Program to help senior executives deal with specific challenges or opportunities. In cooperation with agencies across government, OPM is also taking the lead on the Executive Women in Motion initiative where SES members serve as mentors in an effort to encourage more women to join the executive ranks.

Agencies across government also have designed their own mentoring programs. In addition to helping mentors and mentees connect, at OPM we are celebrating mentoring month by holding a Mentor Shadowing Day, situational mentoring roundtables, and speed mentoring sessions.

I’d like to invite Federal employees across government to join us Tuesday, February 23, at our Washington, D.C. headquarters or via webcast for a program entitled “Why Mentoring Matters.” Our guest speaker will be Christina Goldfuss, managing director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who will talk about how mentoring has influenced her career.

This event was moved to February because of the snow storm. Federal employees who would like to attend the event in person can go to hru.gov to get registration information. The link to view the webcast is: http://web.2.c3.audiovideoweb.com/ca25web26002/7c3flslive1573.html

At OPM we believe mentoring is a critical element in workforce development, and while we encourage all employees to take advantage of the mentoring programs in their agencies, you don’t need a formal program to be a mentor or to find one. Mentoring someone can be as simple as getting a cup of coffee with a colleague. And finding a mentor can be as simple as approaching a co-worker you respect and admire and asking for some advice.

As National Mentoring Month comes to a close, let’s endeavor to develop and nurture mentoring relationships throughout the year. By doing so, we will enrich our careers and we will be to provide even better service to the American people.


Cross-posted from the White House blog.

Ambassador Susan E. Rice, National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama, encourages Americans to consider careers in public service--particularly in national security and international affairs.

If you care about the world and want to help shape a better future for us all, there is nothing more rewarding than choosing a career in public service. You can directly contribute to keeping our country strong and safe.

As a public servant, every day brings new and different challenges. The work is hard, but nothing is more gratifying than knowing you’ve made a difference in the world--that you’ve helped make someone’s life just a little bit better.

One of the many benefits of Federal service is that there are positions in virtually every field. While many think that Federal Government jobs are all in Washington, D.C., in fact, 85 percent of Federal positions are outside of the D.C. area. More than 50,000 employees work abroad.

Having public servants from varied backgrounds and with diverse skill sets throughout government is key to developing the best workforce in service of the American people. That is why in August 2011 the President issued an Executive Order calling for a government-wide coordinated effort to promote diversity and inclusion within the Federal workforce. The President’s Management Agenda builds on that commitment.

If you are interested in joining the ranks of Federal public servants, you can begin exploring career opportunities through USAJOBS.gov. Nearly all Federal job openings are posted on this site and each job announcement includes details about responsibilities, qualifications, benefits, and application instructions. At any given time, there are approximately 20,000 positions available.

If you are interested in the national security and international affairs fields, here are some exciting current opportunities:

  • The FBI is looking for talented individuals in a variety of career fields including Special Agents, Computer Engineers, and Cyber Security Specialists.
  • There are many civilian internship opportunities in the Army Materiel Command, which provides worldwide logistics for our troops.
  • Gain insights into diplomacy as a U.S. Department of State intern.
  • The Presidential Innovation Fellows is a highly-competitive opportunity for private sector innovators and technologists to work with high-level public servants to solve Federal government’s biggest challenges.
  • The Pathways Program offers students and recent graduates a chance to explore possible careers in the Federal Government. One part of Pathways is the Presidential Management Fellows Program for recent graduates with master’s or advanced degrees (within two years) who are interested in a career in leadership and policy.
  • The Attorney General’s Honors Program recruits entry-level attorneys at the Department of Justice.

I hope you will consider joining me in serving the American people here and around the world.

Follow Ambassador Rice on Twitter:  @AmbassadorRice


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