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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 Also, find us on other social media channels.

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.

Picture of a desk and a computer with the phrase 'Engaging a Remote Workforce'

One of any leader’s most important responsibilities is to engage his or her workforce. When your employees don’t work in the same building as you do, creating an engaged workforce can seem even more challenging. As more and more of our colleagues telework or work remotely, it’s even more important that we find ways to make them fully included partners in the work we do every day.

I’m happy to report that OPM has some ideas that can help, and we’re sponsoring an online webinar to share some of them.

Please join us on Tuesday, August 16, at 11:00 am EDT (please log in no later than 10:55 a.m.) for the fifth of eight, no-cost monthly Employee Engagement webinars. I’ll be hosting this month’s session entitled:  “Engaging a Remote Workforce.”

This Employee Engagement series is based on extensive research and is consistent with OPM’s Strategic Goal of providing leadership to help agencies create a fully engaged and energized workforce. If you are a Federal employee responsible for implementing employee engagement initiatives, or just interested in current employee engagement research, best practices, and impact measures, then this webinar is for you.

To register, please visit the OPM Webinar Series page.

In case you can’t make it, I’d like to share the top two things you can do to help engage your remote workforce:

Communication tools

  • If your agency allows telework, don’t hesitate to use the full suite of communication tools. Go beyond the phone and email to get and stay connected with your employees.
  • Not all IT tools are as useful to some of us as others. But it is important to analyze your team of teleworkers see if there is any technology that would help your team communicate more- or more effectively. If you see a tool that you think would benefit their communication in the telework environment, try creating a business case to get permission to use it.

Structure your communications

  • Establish regular meetings.
  • At team meetings, talk about more than just work. For example, on my team, we have the question of the week and each week a different team member picks it. We’ve had questions ranging from where would you take your next road trip, to book club book recommendations to if you had to get a tattoo what would it be. This helps the team to get to know each other better, even though they are not sitting in the same office. Anything we can do increase that personal connection helps make our remote workforce feel even more a part of the team and even more effective.

If you’re able to join us on the 16th, I’ll share strategies to make these happen and even more tips.

As always, please keep an eye on OPM’s Webinar Series page for opportunities to engage with our experts on a variety of topics to help in your work: OPM Webinar Series page.

Infographic which reads: Beat the Heat, stay cool - stay hydrated, stay informed

Summer is a great time for beach getaways, barbecues in the backyard, and other outdoor activities that we long for during the cold, winter months.

But it’s also a time when severe heat and humidity – like we’ve seen during this summer season – make it necessary for us all to take precautions to protect ourselves and our family’s health and well-being.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have teamed up to remind all of us, including agencies and employees across government about what they can do to protect all Federal workers during potentially dangerous heat waves.

Regardless of where we work, we can all follow some basic common-sense practices as outlined on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website: Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible; wear lightweight, light-colored clothing; drink more water than usual, and check for extreme heat alerts.

It’s also important to remember that for Federal employees, OPM’s workplace flexibilities that may be used to reduce health risks during such extreme heat periods. If your supervisor approves, telework-ready employees may telework from home on a day when air quality conditions are poor. If your agency policies allow, an employee working a flexible work schedule may elect to adjust when they come to work and when they leave in order to avoid commuting during the hottest period of the day. Employees can also ask for annual leave, earned compensatory time or credit hours on a day when severe heat and humidity are threatening their health and welfare.

OPM has issued a memorandum to Chief Human Capital Officers across government outlining these flexibilities and including some Federal Government websites that offer more tips on how to handle severe heat and humidity conditions.

I know that all Federal employees are dedicated and committed to doing all they can to serve the American people. At the same time, we all must be mindful of protecting our health during severe weather events - whether cold and storm during winter or the kind of high temperatures and humidity we’ve been experiencing this summer.

As a part of a system-wide upgrade to the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS) website, the site will be in transition from July 30 through September 1. During this period, there will be a blackout on participants being able to request reimbursements from their FSA.

The blackout is necessary to allow WageWorks, which was recently awarded a new contract, to set up an enhanced process to file claims and use the FSAFEDS website.

OPM regrets that the blackout may cause inconvenience for some FSAFEDS participants and we understand their concern. However, given the broad scope of the transition, the sensitive nature of the data involved, and the significant security requirements, a claims blackout period of four weeks is necessary. When the upgrades are complete, we are confident that FSAFEDS will be equipped to deliver enhanced service to participants.

In preparation for the transition period, OPM has given FSAFEDS participants several months’ notice through outreach including letters and emails. To minimize the inconvenience, we have scheduled the blackout in late summer, when claim volumes are typically lowest.

For specific information on the transition period, we recommend that participants visit, which includes a FAQ. Participants may also contact the FSAFEDS Program Office at

In addition, there is still time for participants to file claims for reimbursement before the blackout period begins on July 30.

FSAFEDS allows participants to save money for health care expenses with a Health Care or Limited Expense Health Care FSA. Think of it as a pre-tax savings account that helps you pay for items that typically aren’t covered by a Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plan, the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program, or other health insurance coverage. FSAFEDS also offers another account called Dependent Care FSA. This account allows employees to set aside money for day care expenses for young children and elder care expenses.

We thank everyone for their support of FSAFEDS and for your patience while we go through this transition.

Today the Administration is directing a series of actions to identify, recruit, develop, retain, and expand the pipeline of the best, brightest, and most diverse cybersecurity talent for Federal service and for our nation.

Every day, Federal departments and agencies face sophisticated and persistent cyber threats that pose strategic, economic, and security challenges to our Nation. Addressing these cyber threats has required a bold reassessment of the way we approach security in the digital age and a significant investment in critical security tools and our cybersecurity workforce. And these threats demand that we continue to enhance the security of the Federal digital infrastructure and improve the ability to detect and respond to cyber incidents as they occur. That is why, in 2009, President Obama initiated a comprehensive strategy to confront this ever-evolving challenge. The strategy brings all levels of government together with private industry, academia, international partners, and the public, to raise the level of cybersecurity in both the public and private sectors; deter and disrupt adversary activities in cyberspace; improve capabilities for incident response and resilience; and enact legislation to both incentivize and remove legal barriers to cybersecurity threat information-sharing among private entities and between the private sector and the Government. While we have made significant progress, we must do more.

The Challenge

The Federal cybersecurity workforce has the challenging mission of protecting government information technology (IT) systems, networks, and data from sophisticated adversaries; safeguarding sensitive data; supporting our Nation’s financial, energy, healthcare, transportation, and other critical systems; and securing our critical infrastructure and intelligence systems. However, the supply of cybersecurity talent to meet the increasing demand of the Federal Government is simply not sufficient. As part of a broad-sweeping review of Federal cybersecurity policies, plans, and procedures, the Cybersecurity Sprint launched by the Office of Management and Budget last year revealed two key observations about the Federal cybersecurity workforce:

  1. Federal agencies’ lack of cybersecurity and IT talent is a major resource constraint that impacts their ability to protect information and assets; and,
  2. A number of existing Federal initiatives address this challenge, but implementation and awareness of these programs are inconsistent.

Moreover, this shortfall affects not only the Federal government, but the private sector as well. Recent industry reports project this shortfall will expand rapidly over the coming years unless private sector companies and the Federal Government act to expand the cybersecurity workforce pipeline to meet the increasing demand.

The Opportunity

To address these and other cybersecurity challenges, earlier this year the President directed his Administration to implement the Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) – a capstone of more than seven years of determined effort – which takes near- term actions and puts in place a long-term strategy that builds on other cybersecurity efforts while calling for innovation and investments in cybersecurity education and training to strengthen the cybersecurity talent pipeline. As directed by the CNAP and the President’s 2017 Budget, today we are releasing the first-ever Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Strategy to grow the pipeline of highly skilled cybersecurity talent entering federal service, and retain and better invest in the talent already in public service. And it sets forth a vision where private sector cybersecurity leaders would see a tour of duty in Federal service as an essential stop in their career arc.

The Strategy establishes four key initiatives:

Expand the Cybersecurity Workforce through Education and Training. The Cybersecurity Workforce Strategy supports the CNAP initiatives that propose investing $62 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 funding to expand cybersecurity education across the Nation. This funding will lay the foundation needed to ultimately address the shortage of cybersecurity talent across the country. These initiatives include offering competitive scholarships and covering full tuition for college and university students through the CyberCorps®: Scholarship for Service program; collaborating with academic institutions to develop guidance for cybersecurity core curriculum and allow colleges and universities to expand their course offerings; and providing program development grants to academic institutions to hire or retain professors, adopt a cybersecurity core curriculum and strengthen their overall cybersecurity education programs.

  • Recruit the Nation’s Best Cyber Talent for Federal Service. The Workforce Strategy initiates efforts to implement a government-wide recruitment strategy that includes enhanced outreach efforts to diverse cyber talent — including women, minorities, and veterans— from apprenticeship programs, colleges, universities, and private industry, as part of a comprehensive plan. Over the coming months we will partner with agencies to find ways to streamline hiring practices consistent with current statutes and leverage existing hiring authorities, as appropriate, to quickly bring on new talent. We will explore opportunities to establish a cybersecurity cadre within the Presidential Management Fellows program that leverages the recent success of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and other dynamic approaches for bringing top technologists and innovators into government service. Additionally, we will explore opportunities to expand the use of new or revised pay authorities that can serve as a model for future government-wide efforts.

  • Retain and Develop Highly Skilled Talent. To improve employee retention and development efforts, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will work with Federal agencies to develop cybersecurity career paths, badging and credentialing programs, rotational assignments, and foster opportunities for employees to obtain new skills and become subject matter experts in their field. Additionally, the Workforce Strategy directs the development of a government-wide cybersecurity orientation program for new cybersecurity professionals to improve information sharing and employees’ knowledge of upcoming developmental and training opportunities. The Workforce Strategy also looks to increase the use of special pay authorities, and improve training and development opportunities for cyber and non-cyber employees.

  • Identify Cybersecurity Workforce Needs. Cybersecurity is a dynamic and crosscutting field, and effective workforce planning requires a clear understanding of the gaps between the workforce of today and the needs of tomorrow. The Workforce Strategy directs agencies to adopt a new approach to identifying their cybersecurity workforce gaps by using the National Cybersecurity Workforce Framework developed by National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) partner agencies, which identifies 31 discrete specialty areas within cybersecurity workforce. Agencies are now able to better identify, recruit, assess, and hire the best candidates with specific cyber-related skills and abilities, and we are already making progress in this effort. The Federal Government has already hired 3,000 new cybersecurity and IT professionals in the first 6 months of this fiscal year. However, there is clearly more work to do, and we are committed to a plan by which agencies would hire 3,500 more individuals to fill critical cybersecurity and IT positions by January 2017.

Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility among agency leadership, employees, contractors, private industry, and the American people. And the Workforce Strategy details numerous initiatives to harness this collective power and help strengthen the security of Federal networks, systems, and assets. To address cybersecurity challenges in the immediate future, the Administration will invest in the existing Federal workforce through initiatives focused on training and retaining existing talent. At the same time, the Government will adjust the way it recruits, including the way it approaches talented students and potential employees in the cybersecurity workforce outside Federal service.

We must recognize that these changes will take time to implement, and the Workforce Strategy’s long-term success will depend on the attention, innovation, and resources from all levels of government. The initiatives discussed in this Strategy represent a meaningful first step toward engaging Federal and non-Federal stakeholders and provide the resources necessary to establish, strengthen, and grow a pipeline of cybersecurity talent well into the future.

Shaun Donovan is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Beth Cobert is the Acting Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Michael Daniel is Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator.
Tony Scott is the U.S. Chief Information Officer.

Also see:

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