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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.

Take a look at our blogs and share with others. Once you are on a particular blog page, you can give us the thumbs up. Connect with Acting Director Cobert on Twitter: @OPMDirector and Facebook.com/OPMDirector. Also, find us on other social media channels.

Dark navy blue background. A picture of two white spotlights forming one single oval. In the center of the spotlight, there is the text USAJOBS with an American flag icon in the middle of the letter O. Underneath the image is the text: Celebrating 20 Years.

As we recognize the 20th Anniversary of USAJOBS, it’s a good time to reflect on how far the site, and the Federal hiring process as a whole, has come.

Until 1996 when USAJOBS.gov was launched, someone interested in working for the Federal Government had to go to a Federal building to look at job announcements that were either posted on a bulletin board, or in “reading rooms”.

From the first iteration of USAJOBS.gov through the enhancements of the past year to our new landing page unveiled in the lead up to the site’s 20th anniversary, our team has worked to improve its design, features, and tools and to make the site more user friendly. We are constantly working to improve the user experience and we are committed to continuing to evolve USAJOBS.gov from a job board to a career site.

Over the past year we have worked with stakeholders across government, convened work groups, and received user feedback through interviews and focus groups. We've used this feedback to implement user-friendly updates including a mobile-friendly website, a revised application process, and a new help center.

We have put metrics in place to measure and track whether the updates we’ve made are improving the user experience and meeting the needs and expectations of our users. Our partners at the General Services Administration (GSA) have provided us with a web analytics tool, Digital Analytics Platform (DAP), which will enable us to continually measure our efforts.

Some of the interesting data we have gathered tells us that more than 14,000 Federal job opportunities are available every day, 22 million applications are started each year, and 1 billion searches are conducted on the website each year.

In addition to these efforts, we are developing the Agency Talent Portal that will provide agencies with innovative and strategic recruiting tools. With the continued support of OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert, and working with the Innovation Lab@OPM, USAJOBS is striving to influence the Federal hiring process in a positive way from start to finish.

Beyond our redesign efforts, the USAJOBS team is participating in OPM’s Hiring Excellence Campaign, which is designed to connect Federal agencies with a talented and diverse applicant pool and help agencies hire the best qualified candidates.

Our goal moving forward is simple - for USAJOBS to provide easy-to-use tools and resources to support job seekers in their quest for Federal employment. In order to realize this vision, our team will continue to leverage data to its fullest potential to inform how we design USAJOBS.gov so we can help job seekers connect with the positions they want and agencies connect with the talent they need.

To learn more about USAJOBS please visit: https://www.usajobs.gov/Help/About/

The cybersecurity report issued today by the Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (HOGR) on the cyber intrusions at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) does not fully reflect where this agency stands today.

While we disagree with many aspects of the report, we welcome the committee’s recognition of OPM’s swift response to the cybersecurity intrusions and its acknowledgement of our progress in strengthening our cybersecurity policies, and processes. We also appreciate the panel’s willingness to work with us on these important issues and find many of the final recommendations to be useful for OPM and the Federal Government at-large.

It is therefore important to take stock of our progress and outline the course we are charting for the future.

Over the past year OPM has worked diligently with its partners across government and made significant progress to strengthen our cybersecurity posture, and reestablish confidence in this agency’s ability to protect data while delivering on our core missions.

For example:

  • We require those who log into OPM’s systems to use strong multi-factor identification forms. This level of security provides a powerful barrier to our networks from individuals who should not have access.
  • We are in the process of rebuilding and enhancing the web-based application system that individuals use to provide OPM with the information we need to conduct background investigations.
  • We are one of the first agencies in the Federal Government to fully implement the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as DHS’s Einstein 3a. These initiatives allow agencies to detect and prevent cyber attacks before they can reach our systems, and continuously identify cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities that might arise.
  • We have strengthened our legacy technology systems while developing a new, modern IT infrastructure, which will provide a secure environment for OPM well into the future.
  • We are working with our partners at the Department of Defense who are designing, building, and will operate the IT infrastructure for the new National Background Investigations Bureau, the OPM-based entity that will conduct background investigations for the Federal Government in the future. 

These are just a few of the initiatives we have underway, but there is more to this story. At OPM we recognize that cybersecurity is not just about technology – it’s about people. In addition to strengthening our technology, we have added seasoned cybersecurity and IT experts to our already talented team.

OPM has brought on a senior cybersecurity advisor who reports to the Director of OPM. We have hired a new Chief Information Officer as well as a number of new senior IT leaders. And we have centralized our cybersecurity resources under a new Chief Information Security Officer, whose sole responsibility is to take the steps necessary to secure and control access to sensitive information. We also have a strong working relationship with our Office of Inspector General.

The cybersecurity incidents at OPM provided a catalyst for accelerated change within our organization. Throughout this agency, management has embraced cybersecurity as a top priority. I am proud of the way the team at OPM rose to the challenge and appreciate the collaborative spirit with which our partners across government worked - and continue to work – side by side with us each and every day.

We hope Congress will also continue to support our efforts and provide us with the resources we need to continue to strengthen our cybersecurity posture now, and into the future.

In an increasingly interconnected world, the threats we face in the realm of cybersecurity are persistent, sophisticated and constantly evolving. To confront these threats we must remain vigilant in our quest to protect systems and information. At OPM we are committed, we are dedicated, and most importantly we are working tirelessly to continuously enhance the security of our data and fulfill our important mission for the American people.

 


An hourglass with sand running through it. On the side is the FEGLI logo and the words Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance. Open Season: September 1- 30, 2016

Most Federal employees make a decision about life insurance coverage when they join the Federal Government and rarely revisit that decision. But as the circumstances of our lives change, so does our need for protection.

Beginning on September 1 and continuing throughout the month, it will be Open Season for Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI). This is an opportunity for Federal employees and their families to consider what levels of protection might be appropriate for them and either to enroll in FEGLI for the first time or make changes to their coverage. The availability of life insurance coverage is just one of the comprehensive packages of health and other benefits available to all Federal employees.

Importantly, if you enroll for the first time or change your coverage, there will be no medical exam required and no health questions to answer. Paying for the coverage is simple: premiums are deducted from your paycheck.

Financial issues to take into consideration when making a life insurance coverage decision include preparing for burial expenses, medical costs, and the loss of salary and benefits when a loved one passes away.  Additional child care costs, elder care costs, transportation needs, assistance with maintaining a home, and other lifestyle concerns may also be part of the equation.

As a Federal employee, you were probably automatically enrolled in FEGLI Basic insurance when you first joined the Federal service, unless you waived this coverage. Basic insurance covers your life for whichever is greater: Your annual rate of basic pay, rounded up to the next whole $1,000, plus $2,000; or $10,000. This is called the Basic Insurance Amount (BIA). The Government pays one-third of the premium cost for Basic and you pay two-thirds.

If more life insurance coverage is appropriate for your family, as a Federal employee you can add an additional $10,000 of coverage (Option A) and/or additional coverage in an amount one to five times your annual rate of basic pay (Option B).

Finally, with Option C, you can elect coverage on the lives of your spouse and eligible dependent children under age 22.  You can have one to five multiples of Option C.  Each multiple is worth $5,000 on the life of your spouse and $2,500 on the lives of each eligible child. 

If you and your family are satisfied with your current FEGLI coverage, you don’t need to do anything.  Employees can always elect coverage within 60 days of a FEGLI qualifying life event – such as marriage or the birth of a child - or at any time by passing a physical exam.  If you elect to take a physical exam, you can select any coverage that FEGLI offers, except the Option C family coverage.

Employees and annuitants can cancel coverage, reduce coverage, or change beneficiaries at any time. As a reminder, this Open Season is a great time to update your beneficiaries if they don’t reflect your current wishes.

If you decide to enroll for the first time or change the coverage you have now, you should know that the coverage will take effect a year from now, during the first full pay period in October 2017, as long as you meet pay and duty status requirements, meaning you are actively working.  For most biweekly employees, this means coverage will be effective on October 1, 2017.  For most Postal employees, this means coverage will be effective on October 14, 2017.

Employees who are approaching retirement should note that all regular rules for continuing FEGLI into retirement still apply. This includes the requirement that for any types or multiples of coverage an employee wishes to bring with them into retirement, the employee must have that coverage throughout their last five years of Federal service, or their entire period or periods of service if they retire with less than five years of service.

So because coverage elected during the FEGLI Open Season will be effective no sooner than October 2017, if an employee wants to bring their open season coverage into retirement, they must retire in October 2022 or later, five years after the coverage they selected during Open Season becomes effective.

For more information on FEGLI Open Season and FEGLI in general, including current premium amounts, please visit: www.opm.gov/FEGLIopenseason


Green background with a picture of people walking up a staircase made of books.  And the title 'The Pathways Program: Four Years Later. A New Report,' in white and black.

As we celebrate the fourth anniversary of the Pathways Programs, I’m excited to share a study that highlights the way this program has significantly contributed to the Federal Government’s ability to recruit, develop, and retain a world-class workforce.

The Federal Government is only as successful as the people who carry its mission forward. And, with more Federal employees becoming eligible for retirement each day, students, college graduates, and advanced degree holders are a great source of talent. Pathways includes internships, positions for recent graduates, and our Presidential Management Fellows program. If you are a student or recent graduate interested in the many opportunities in the Federal Workforce, please visit: https://www.usajobs.gov/studentsandgrads

In his 2010 Executive Order that helped establish what has become today’s Pathways Programs, the President said that “the Federal Government benefits from a diverse workforce that includes students and recent graduates who infuse the workplace with their enthusiasm, talents, and unique perspectives.” I couldn’t agree more.

Research tells us that students and recent graduates about to enter the workforce believe in public service and want to make a difference. The Federal Government needs to tap into that innovative spirit and commitment to service. And that is exactly what our Pathways programs continue to do.

Recently, OPM conducted a Pathways Programs study to analyze agencies’ use of Pathways, highlight best practices, and develop recommendations for how to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the program.

One exciting finding was that 93 percent of Pathways Programs participants surveyed said they plan to remain at their current agency or continue to work in the Federal Government in the immediate future. This is good news for our nation.

To help build on our success, and working with our partners at the White House Office of Management and Budget and Presidential Personnel office, OPM this year began a Hiring Excellence Campaign (HEC) designed to improve, modernize, and transform the way we recruit and hire new talent into the Federal service. Improving the use of Pathways is one part of that effort. To find out more about HEC, or to register for an upcoming session, please visit www.OPM.gov/HiringExcellence.

At OPM we want to help agencies across government make the most of the Pathways program and do all they can to encourage students, recent graduates, and advanced degree holders to use Pathways to try out a Federal career.

OPM has developed a Pathways toolkit to help hiring managers and HR professionals make the most out of these exciting programs. The toolkit includes a handbook for HR specialists, a toolkit for hiring managers, Pathways flexibilities charts, and a webinars to help supervisors and HR staff better use Pathways. You can get more information on these sessions at HRU.gov.

Each day OPM and our partners across government are working to improve the way we attract, develop, and retain the critical talent we need to fulfill our missions and service the American people. Tools and initiatives such as the Hiring Excellence Campaign, training opportunities on HRU.gov, and the Pathways toolkit are invaluable resources that can help us meet this important challenge.


Chalkboard with apple, pencils and clock, with the phrase 'Back to School'

The summer is flying by. Youngsters have begun picking out their new notebooks and backpacks as they get ready to go back to school. This may be a good time for Federal employees to consider going back to the classroom to enhance their knowledge and skills.

It’s possible the path forward in your career is in another field - perhaps even one that did not exist a few years ago. Or maybe you just want to develop in your current career. This might even be a great time to build a career in one of our high-demand fields like information technology, health care, accounting, or cybersecurity.

Each year the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey tells us that Federal employees want more opportunities to enrich their learning and branch out into new fields and new opportunities.

Take it from Tameka Lyons. She was already enrolled in the University of Maryland University College when she joined the National Institutes of Health. She found out about the tuition discount for Federal employees. For Tameka, the 25 percent discount on her tuition meant she was able to fund her last two semesters out of pocket. “I didn’t need to take out loans, so that was just an awesome feeling,” she said. Tameka said she didn’t have to contemplate taking fewer classes because she was worried about being saddled with so much debt.

Tameka, who is now an HR specialist at the Department of Justice, is just one of the many Federal employees taking advantage of this important benefit.

If you’re thinking about where to go to get the advanced learning that will help you take the next step on your career path, I wanted to make sure you knew about the tuition discounts on higher education that are available to you, your spouse, and your legal dependents. These are opportunities for both in person and online learning, depending on the program. OPM has made agreements with these six institutions and we’re working on more alliances in the future. Here are the available programs and the links to more information about their classes.

I encourage all Federal employees  to continue to expand their  knowledge and education – whether through the programs listed above or in the many other educational programs available at your agency or at schools across the country. We hope these discounts make it easier for you and your family to reach your educational goals.


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