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As we at OPM and our partners across government work quickly to investigate the nature and scope of the cyberattacks that invaded our network and systems, I want to make sure that our Federal employee family knows that I continue to work each and every day to make sure that the data OPM is entrusted with protecting is secure now and for the future.
I am as concerned as our Federal workforce by these cyberintrusions, and I want employees to know we are redoubling our efforts to make sure our systems are as secure as possible. We know that our adversaries are sophisticated, well-funded, and focused. We know this because in an average month, OPM thwarts millions of attempts to break into our network.
Before I detail the work my OPM team is doing to upgrade our aging systems, to investigate the cyberintrusions, and to plan for the future, I want to make sure all Federal employees know that OPM has continued to operate with strong confidence in the security of the data it handles.
So how did we get here? In November of 2013, when the President honored me with the assignment to lead the men and women of OPM, I quickly realized that the agency’s outdated, legacy system needed to be modernized. My team got to work on the comprehensive IT Strategic Plan during my first 100 days as OPM Director. That plan clearly identified security vulnerabilities in our aging systems. We immediately began an aggressive modernization and security overhaul.
It was because of that overhaul and the tools we put in place to strengthen our cybersecurity that OPM -- working with our partners at the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- was able to detect the cyberbreaches of personnel and background investigations data. That work continues, and continues aggressively. We have upgraded our network monitoring and logging capability and added firewalls that allow OPM to better filter network traffic. The remote access for our network administrators has been restricted.
On June 4, we publicly announced that we believed that the personally identifiable information (PII) of about 4 million current and former Federal employees had been compromised. Almost immediately, we began notifying those affected and they are getting access to credit monitoring and other services they may need. As the investigation has proceeded, we recently confirmed that OPM systems containing information related to the background investigations of current, former, and prospective Federal employees may have been compromised. We are working intensively to assess the scope of that attack and we will notify affected individuals as soon as possible.
Each and every day, as we work through the challenges of investigating these attacks and aggressively work on the redesign of our computer network, I am thinking about the millions of men and women who work – and who have worked – to serve the American people.
Our OPM team knows that you have entrusted your sensitive personal information to us. It is a trust we will continue to honor and one that is foremost in our minds as we do the critical work necessary to prevent, detect, and thwart future cyberattacks.
As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month, I want to proudly reinforce my continued commitment to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members of our Federal family, and recognize the incredible contributions this community has made in service to the American people.
We better serve the American people when our Federal workforce draws from and honors the unique talents and experiences of individuals from every community across this great country. Though we tackle tough challenges each and every day, the diversity of thought, opinion, and experience drives the creativity and ingenuity we need to get our vital work done. And our LGBT colleagues are instrumental in helping agencies fulfill their service-driven missions.
I realize that it’s not enough to simply recognize and honor the contributions of this community when more work still needs to be done to build a more fair and equal society for LGBT Americans. As the President’s chief human resources official, I want to make it clear that the Federal Government does not and will not condone workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Federal employees.
That’s why I’m so excited to announce that the Office of Personnel Management is joining our partners at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Merit System Protections Board, and the Office of Special Counsel to release an updated guide titled “Addressing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination in Federal Civilian Employment: A Guide to Employment Rights, Protections, and Responsibilities.” This informative resource will help LGBT Federal employees make more informed choices about how best to pursue their individual claims when they believe they have suffered from discrimination.
At OPM, we continue to look for ways in which we can make our policies more equitable and fair for our entire Federal family, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We do this not just because it makes good business sense, but also because as a model employer, it’s simply the right thing to do.
As the President says in his LGBT Pride Month proclamation:
“All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation, we honor those who have fought to perfect our Union, and we continue our work to build a society where every child grows up knowing that their country supports them, is proud of them, and has a place for them exactly as they are.”
I could not agree more.
At OPM, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to provide meaningful training opportunities for the Federal workforce. When we decided to offer our first-ever Virtual HR Training Conference, the idea was to give employees a great opportunity for learning that was also affordable in today’s tight budgets.
I’m happy to report that this first virtual conference exceeded even my high expectations. More than 2,400 employees, representing 75 Federal agencies across the country, participated in the two-day event, co-sponsored by OPM and the Chief Human Capital Officers Council in April.
And I’m not the only one who thinks the conference hit the mark.
“By all accounts, the OPM Virtual HR Conference was a smashing success!” said Gary Musicante, Director of Workplace Planning at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
On our conference evaluation form, an employee with the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs said, “Why haven’t we done this sooner?”
We virtually transported nearly 60 experts to the computers and laptops of conference participants, taking advantage of the latest multimedia tools – videos and virtual panels and breakouts chats. That made our conference an unprecedented learning opportunity for the Federal HR community.
It cost only $95 for an individual to attend, demonstrating that high-quality employee training doesn’t have to be expensive or require travel. The government saved an estimated $4 million compared to a traditional brick-and-mortar conference for a like number of employees. And, employees who otherwise would have been denied a conference opportunity because of the travel costs were able to benefit.
As an added bonus, conference participants have access to the recorded sessions they missed – or just want to see again – for a full year.
This conference fulfills one of the key goals of OPM’s human capital management strategy – REDI. REDI stands for Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion. Participants had the chance to immerse themselves in a variety of HR strategies and to share agency success stories on topics such as performance management, leave, work-life flexibilities, engagement, diversity, and recruitment.
An exciting element of the conference was bringing together program leaders and human capital experts. Thirty-nine percent of attendees were not HR professionals. Such partnerships are critical to our ability to solve management challenges across government.
We know effective training saves time and money. That’s why OPM and the CHCO Council are dedicated to pursuing state-of-the-art, affordable learning experiences for all Federal employees.
I’m proud of OPM’s HR Solutions team for the hard work they put into making the 2015 HR Virtual Conference such a success. Stay tuned. This year’s conference was just the first. There are more exciting learning opportunities to come.
As we celebrate Memorial Day with family and friends, I’d like to take this opportunity to pause and remember those who have fallen in service to their country. During my 33 years in the United States Navy, I lost friends and comrades. So this day serves as a special reminder to me that we honor their memories through our own service to our country.
Each year on Veterans Day, we pay tribute to all members of the military who have served. On Armed Services Day, we recognize all active duty members of the military. But Memorial Day is a time for us to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We remember the brave men and women, in and out of uniform, who gave their lives to preserve our liberty.
Simply remembering, however, is not enough. Words and thoughts mean nothing if they are not accompanied by actions. Three actions all of us can take immediately come to my mind: Honoring the fallen, caring for our wounded brothers and sisters, and safeguarding their families.
I always make sure to visit national cemeteries around Memorial Day. This year, I will pay my respects at Arlington National Cemetery. But one of my most profound Memorial Day memories is taking the sons of a fallen solider to their father’s gravesite. Their father, someone I was privileged to mentor, was killed in an aircraft accident. He would be proud to know that his sons are both now pursuing higher education, and that his older son is following in his father’s footsteps as a midshipman student at the Naval Academy.
As a member of the Armed Services, people often thank me for my service. But those who deserve the highest gratitude are those who have given the full measure of their lives for our country. I hope that this Memorial Day, you will join me in honoring their sacrifice.
Admiral Earl Gay is a Senior Advisor to the Director at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Our Federal workforce is talented, passionate, and creative. To harness this spirit of ingenuity, we created the Lab@OPM to help agencies translate the creativity of their employees into innovative action. A recent project with Food and Nutrition Services at the United States Department of Agriculture shows how the Lab@OPM can bring fresh ideas to life.
One of the many vital services that our Federal Government provides is the National School Lunch Program. Run by USDA, it gives healthy and low-cost or free meals to more than 30 million children each school day. USDA came to the lab with an important, but complex, question: “How can we make it easier for families to provide accurate information about eligibility for the free and reduced lunch program?”
The Lab@OPM was created in 2012 to assist Federal agencies in developing innovative solutions to just such complicated problems. These partnerships lead to new ideas about how the Federal Government can better deliver services and programs. At the heart of the lab’s work is human centered design, a process that looks at solving problems from the point of view of people who will be using a particular product or service.
To help USDA with its free and reduced lunch program, the OPM lab team worked with USDA representatives. They reviewed the rules of the program, interviewed school officials and families, brainstormed solutions, and redesigned the application. In keeping with the human centered design model, the new form was tested with families before it was approved by school officials.
The new lunch application is only one page long, and includes small but important changes, such as providing more space to write children’s full names and a simpler design. USDA launched the redesigned form last month. The agency hopes that families will find the application process easier, and that schools will find it more effective.
Caring for our nation’s children is one of our top priorities as a government. Making sure that each child has a nutritious, filling meal every day is one of the best ways we can set students up for success. I am proud that OPM is playing a role in carrying out this mission.
And all of us at OPM are thrilled to provide a space for agencies across government to innovate and share creative problem-solving skills. The Lab@OPM helped the USDA to determine that a new form was the best solution for its problem. Our lab team looks forward to working with many more agencies to help them come up with solutions for the unique situations they face.
Federal employees work each and every day to make our nation stronger and to better serve the needs of every American. It’s our job at OPM to support our workforce in these goals. I’m excited to watch as the Lab@OPM continues to play an important role in government innovation.
Photo Credit: CDC
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