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On October 13, 2010, President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act into law. This Act requires all Federal agencies to write most documents in plain language and requires all new covered documents to be written in plain language beginning October 13th.
As you know, plain language is communicating with your audience so they understand what you're saying the first time they read or hear it. It's worth remembering that language that is "plain" to one set of readers may not be plain to others. So keeping in mind who your audience is will help immeasurably.
Written material is in plain language if your audience can easily:
What kind of documents should be written in plain language? Any document that (1) is necessary for obtaining any Federal Government benefit or service or filing taxes, (2) provides information about any Federal Government benefit or service, or (3) explains to the public how to comply with a requirement the Federal Government administers or enforces. This includes (whether in paper or electronic form) a letter, publication, form, notice, or instruction and does not include regulations.
Want to learn more? Online plain language training is available from the National Institutes of Health at plainlanguage.nih.gov/CBTs/PlainLanguage/login.asp. You don’t have to login, just click Browse to get started.
If you have any questions, please visit our Plain Language site or feel free to leave us a comment here.
IT is a critical component of OPM’s ability to supply the Federal Government with the most talented, highest performing workforce available. We maintain important websites such as USAJobs.com, administer benefits for millions of federal employees, and provide critical HR support for every federal agency. Each of these tasks is information intensive, thus OPM’s implementation of the 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management. My staff and I are working tirelessly to implement these important reforms.
OPM has a unique role in the larger IT Reform agenda in our creation of an IT Program Management career path. Over the past six months we have worked on a tight time frame to establish this new career track for our high-performing program managers. We have published the classification title for IT program managers, researched the need for direct hire authority for IT program managers, and are in the process of developing an IT program manager competency model. As CIO, I am extremely proud of the work that my team has accomplished in this initiative and feel that this new career track will have a dramatic affect on the performance of IT programs across the Federal Government for the foreseeable future.
A major goal of our agency is to move more processes to shared services or cloud platforms. This centralization will lead to both cost savings and improved performance. We have already begun to move the majority of our web services, including OPM.gov, to cloud-based platforms. We are also moving our document management to the cloud, which will allow OPM employees to share information much more efficiently. We expect that these changes alone will save the agency over $200k per year. This “Cloud First” philosophy is central to our department’s strategic plan for federal IT which includes our goal to reduce our Operations and Management expenditures by 10% per year over the next three years.
We held our first departmental Tech Stat session on March 30th, where we evaluated our Health Claims Data Warehouse. We identified several key management and communications issues that needed to be addressed in order to ensure the system’s continued success. We established a plan for improved governance of the program by establishing stronger communication channels between key stakeholders and with the Executive Steering Committee. Further, we expect to avoid significant future costs as a result of these improvements. As we go forward, the TechStat process will continue to be a vital component of our IT Management plan.
As we continue to implementation the IT Reform plan, I am encouraged by the remarkable progress I see here at OPM and across the entire government. This progress and the resulting best practices are both positive signs for the future of IT Reform. While there are challenges ahead, the ambitious goals set forth both in the plan and by our agency will push us to achieve results as we work to recruit the next generation of talented, dynamic federal employees.
Matthew E. Perry is the Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
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If you would like to learn more about the OpenOPM initiative, visit www.opm.gov/open.
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