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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Contact: Michael Orenstein
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Director James Convenes Chief Human Capital Officers for Discussion of Two Presidential Management Fellows Programs and Agency Safety Efforts

Positive survey results on agency activity to secure employees, maintain operations in emergency situations highlighted

James urges agencies to work closely with unions

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James led a discussion among members of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council on the progress federal agencies have made in developing emergency preparedness guidelines and communicating safety measures with employees.

"As always, one of my top considerations in emergency preparedness is whether we have done everything within our grasp to ensure federal employees are safe," said James. "While the final decisions on emergency plans and procedures rest with individual agencies, OPM continues to consult with agencies and their field operations on basic elements for plan development and implementation."

Members of the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Council also werebriefed on features of the new Presidential Management Fellows Program and the Senior Presidential Management Fellows Program, two programs that provide individuals with enhanced earnings potential and improved access to executive-level jobs, while giving government a powerful recruitment and retention tool.

James pointed to agency efforts governmentwide in the area of emergency preparedness and the steps that have been taken to communicate guidelines and safety measures to employees. Marta Perez, OPM's Associate Director for Human Capital Leadership and Merit System Accountability, told council members that the agencies have improved their focus over last year in contingency planning by designating emergency personnel to keep vital operations running, conducting threat assessments, and ensuring the safety demands of special-needs employees, among others.

However, many agencies need to do more work in communicating with employees and unions about security measures in place. In addition, a number of agencies need to conduct shelter-in-place and evacuation rehearsals, and many do not yet offer telework opportunities to counter the effects of office closings or a less-mobile workforce.

James said: "The safety of federal employees requires clear communication and teamwork among employees, unions and managers. Failure to communicate and work together is a disservice to employees."

The 2004 survey marks the first time agencies have been surveyed on telework and emergency employee plans.

Also of keen interest to the council is the new Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program. James said the PMF Program, as well as various initiatives the council has under consideration, will "help you manage and run your agencies" at a higher level of productivity and lower cost.

James said the two Fellows programs present agencies with "a tremendous opportunity to attract some extraordinary people into government." She emphasized the availability of higher, entry-level salaries for newly minted graduate students accepted into the PMF Program, as well as the accelerated promotions and upper-end, General Schedule salaries available to qualified mid-career employees who move from the private sector into the Senior PMF Program.

"The goal of OPM is to implement a completely new program worthy of the title ‘Presidential'," said James, who last year directed the return of the Fellows program headquarters to the nation's capital from Philadelphia. "I am very pleased by the support provided by former Presidential Management interns in making this new program successful and our program design reflective of stakeholder feedback."

OPM will issue final regulations on both Fellows programs by mid May. Pay provisions of the regulations will recognize fast-track promotion of Senior Fellows to the Senior Executive Service (SES) through non-competitive placement. The regulations also will permit the payment of recruitment bonuses and the repayment of student loans.

The council also discussed the planning and implementation of an employee survey required under the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2004. Under the act, OPM must develop a universal set of questions to which surveyed employees will respond, allowing for cross-agency referencing. The survey will assess leadership and management practices, as well as employee satisfaction with the work environment and advancement opportunities. Agencies may adapt the survey to gain information of specific interest to their mission, and the results may help agencies tweak operations in furtherance of recruitment and retention goals.

Also discussed during the meeting was the council's strategic plan for fiscal year 2004, which includes improving the American public's perception of public service as a way to attract high-quality job seekers and using President Bush's vision of a results-oriented government to link pay to employee performance.

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Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.


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