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I love delivering good news. Last week, I had the honor of recapping the Administration’s civil rights accomplishments to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting in Las Vegas.
The chamber’s annual meeting was sold out. I stopped in to talk to them about what a great week we had just had. It had started with President Obama signing the Executive Order that makes clear that Federal employees and Federal contractors can come to work each and every day without fear of discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The week ended with the release of OPM’s update of the Title V discrimination regulations. These new rules make it crystal clear that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is a form of sex discrimination and is against the law.
I think about how far we’ve come. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed. We ended the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Supreme Court ruled in United States vs. Windsor that the Federal government must recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples. The President signed historic hate crimes legislation into law. The Affordable Care Act has expanded access to health coverage, and in the process we addressed LGBT health care disparities.
But this conversation is about more than policy fixes and court decisions and legislation. What we are witnessing is a sea change in the way the United States of America treats lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
This is personal. This year we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. What we have done under this President is a defining civil rights accomplishment of this generation.
As director of OPM, I am so proud of the work that our employees do every day to make sure that our LGBT brothers and sisters are not denied access to health, retirement or life insurance benefits or the Family and Medical Leave Act simply because of who they are and who they love.
I know we have more work to do. As the President said in his proclamation declaring June LGBT Pride Month: “We celebrate victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness, and we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.”
But we sure have made a great start!
We all think we’re old hands when it comes to sitting in downtown D.C. traffic while a visiting dignitary or presidential motorcade needs to pass.
Take it from me. You haven’t seen anything yet.
Dozens of motorcades will be going through the Federal city on Tuesday and Wednesday as the President hosts the United States-Africa Leaders Summit. This gathering is expected to be the largest event any U.S. President has ever held with the heads of state and government leaders from Africa.
Despite the closed streets, difficulty parking and traffic, the Federal government will remain open for business. I urge you to work with your supervisors and managers to come up with a plan that lets you get the job done with the least amount of hassle.
The good news is that we are prepared. Just like when a harsh winter storm, summer derecho or any other natural disaster hits, OPM has thought through how best to keep the government operating while keeping our Federal workforce family safe.
And one of our strongest tools is telework. Federal employees are teleworking at an all-time high. In the D.C. area, 70 percent of employees are telework eligible.
So I urge you to think about how best to handle this upcoming traffic situation. Whether you drive to work or take public transportation, you should allow extra time if you are coming into the District. You should also consider taking advantage of such flexibilities as Alternative Work Schedule, taking leave or, as I said, teleworking.
One thing I am sure of: Our world class Federal workforce will – as you always do – find a way to make sure we continue to provide excellent service to the American people.
For a full listing of street closures, click here.
For a handy map of impacted areas, click here.
I want to share some good news. OPM has been recognized by the Small Business Administration with a rating of “A+” on its Small Business Scorecard for its success in contracting with small businesses. This is the first year OPM has received an “A+” score.
OPM’s success is due in no small part to the hard work and dedication of the team in our Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU).
Nurturing small business growth has been a major priority for President Obama, and I share the President’s view that small business is “the lifeblood of our economy.” In his time in office, the President has signed 18 tax breaks to bolster business growth and 166,000 small businesses have gotten much-needed loans through community banks, state-run loan programs and the SBA.
OSDBU was created in March 2011 as part of the Small Business Act to ensure that small and disadvantaged businesses have the maximum opportunity to participate in the agency's contracting process. The primary responsibility of OSDBU is to make sure that small businesses are treated fairly and have an opportunity to compete for agency contracts and subcontracts.
In the past, that was not always the case. Up until 2012, OPM had made progress, but fell short of its small-business contracting goals. In 2013, OPM implemented a new, comprehensive small business reform strategy with one critical goal in mind: to increase small business competition and expand the use of small businesses on direct contract awards.
The strategy worked. The key was better accountability. We established clear lines of accountability from senior leadership to the contracting specialists. We defined a strategic and comprehensive strategy. That included taking an aggressive approach to redefining contract requirements to ensure small business could fairly participate. We established “smart contracts,” directed towards small businesses. We also provided OPM’s contracting staff with extensive training in small business and data quality.
OSDBU focused its outreach on organizing conferences, fairs and meetings to help small businesses understand purchasing requirements. It counseled small businesses on what OPM needed from its contractors. OSDBU also met with interested small business owners to discuss various ways to market their services, and how to respond to a “request for proposal and request for information.”
OSDBU has repeatedly stressed the importance of tying performance measures for contracting officers to their success in creating opportunities for small business owners. Most importantly, people were held accountable for meeting OPM’s goals for doing business with small and disadvantaged businesses.
I am very proud of OPM’s A+ on the Small Business Scorecard. But I’m even more proud of all of the hard work OPM employees did to make it happen!
Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is a great way to really learn what they do every day, and how we can make their lives better. This week, I joined the President’s “Day in the Life” effort. Throughout the summer, senior administrators are traveling the country speaking with -- and learning from -- the people we work for every day.
While in Los Angeles this past week, I had such fun spending time with two extraordinary individuals – Matthew Gonzales, a Federal employee at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, and Megan Rodriguez, an Air Force veteran who works for the state of California as an employment assistant helping other veterans find jobs. Both are young Latinos driven by a passion for public service.
Matthew entered the Federal government as a Pathways intern, a program that brings the best young talent into government and sets them on the path to a Federal career. Matthew is now a civilian program manager at the space and missile center. He also co-led the first chapter of Young Government Leaders in Los Angeles.
Matthew shared something that really made an impression on me. At his job, there is always a lot going on and he is experiencing and doing many things for the first time. But, he said, with pride, while he is not always expected to know everything right away, he is always expected to learn. Matthew knows he has the support and tools that he needs to keep growing, and that is part of the reason why he believes the Federal government is a great place to start his career. That spirit of service is exactly what our nation needs. And I know that Matthew is one of hundreds of thousands of Federal employees with that same enthusiasm.
Megan has a passion for helping fellow veterans find jobs. While attending Mount St. Mary’s College, she founded its Veterans Outreach Association and she has continued that work now that she has graduated. We discussed our shared passion for helping women veterans get Federal jobs, especially STEM jobs. She would be a great fit in the Federal government.
In Matthew and Megan, I saw so many positive qualities: passion, dedication, an overwhelming desire to help people, a call to service, and a truly hopeful vision of the future. These young professionals remind me what it was like to once walk in shoes similar to theirs. I know there are obstacles they face each day, but their commitment to public service makes me confident we will continue to have a diverse, talented, caring, and devoted Federal workforce. Their insights helped me understand firsthand what young Latinos are thinking and what we need to do to attract them to Federal service.
I was glad to be able to tell them that we are already working hard to increase the number of Federal employees from underrepresented communities and to support and develop them in their careers. They share my commitment that we have a workforce that truly represents the bright mosaic of the American family.
So really, we learned a lot from each other. If we take the time to stop, listen, and just for a moment, put ourselves in another’s shoes, we’ll keep learning. And that makes all the difference.
This Saturday, July 26, marks the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a day for us to celebrate the tremendous contributions of people with disabilities to our country. From classrooms in Sacramento to buses in Denver to sidewalks here in the District of Columbia, this landmark legislation makes sure that Americans with disabilities are guaranteed full access and the same opportunities promised to all Americans.
On July 26, 2010, President Obama issued Executive Order 13548, Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities, to mark the historic 20th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. His order says that the Federal government, as the nation's largest employer, must become a model for the employment of individuals with disabilities.
We have made great progress toward fulfilling the President’s vision. There are more people with disabilities in Federal service than at any time in the past 33 years. The talents, the experiences and the expertise of employees with disabilities are an indispensable part of the Federal workforce. At all levels and in every profession, the contributions of people with disabilities enrich the Federal government. Our nation is absolutely stronger because of their dedication and service.
Yet our work is not done. We must do more to recruit people with targeted disabilities. We must continue our efforts to hire and retain employees with disabilities at all levels of government -- from resume through retirement -- so that we have the strongest workforce possible.
To support Federal employees in this effort, OPM, in consultation with partner agencies, has launched an online course entitled, “A Roadmap to Success: Hiring, Retaining and Including People with Disabilities.” The course, which will be available to agencies at no cost on HR University, provides basic information and resources to help employees and managers hire, retain and advance Federal workers with disabilities. In accordance with the Executive Order, this training will be required for human resources personnel and hiring managers.
Today, let all of us recommit to building an inclusive, vibrant and powerful workforce that reflects the bright mosaic of the American people we serve.
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