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Mission & History


We are champions of talent for the federal government. We lead federal agencies in workforce policies, programs, and benefits in service to the American people.


We will create a new vision of work, together. We will position the federal government as a model employer for past and present employees through innovation, inclusivity, and leadership. We will build a rewarding culture that empowers the workforce to solve some of our nation's toughest challenges.


Respect: OPM honors and respects our employees and customers through practices that promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility and uphold the principles of the federal merit system. The federal workforce should reflect the diversity of the American people.

Innovation: OPM employs innovative solutions and strategies to address government-wide talent management challenges and build the workforce of the future.

Service: OPM fulfills its mission by delivering outstanding customer service to federal agencies, the federal workforce, federal retirees, and federal job seekers.

Excellence: OPM achieves results by using our expertise, data, and best practices.

OPM's History 

OPM was established as a standalone agency in 1978 to oversee federal workforce management, but our roots date back to 1883, when the Civil Service Reform Act created the competitive civil service. This law requires the federal government to hire public servants based on their skills, and not their political affiliations.

A strong, merit-based civil service is critical to a functioning democracy. It ensures that our government “of the people, by the people, for the people” continues to serve the American public without interruption, even though our leaders change over time. It also safeguards the public interest in a federal workforce that looks like America and that benefits from the talents, ideas, and skills of people from all of our nation’s communities.

The history of OPM and its predecessor, the Civil Service Commission, reflects our country’s social, economic, and population growth, the changing needs of the American workforce, and key moments in the development of modern workforce management:

1883: The Pendleton Act establishes OPM’s predecessor agency, the Civil Service Commission, and the competitive civil service, making federal service available to any citizen with the necessary skills

1907: President Theodore Roosevelt directs federal agencies to create personnel management offices, to better manage the growing federal workforce

1920: The Retirement Act of 1920 creates the federal pension system, a retirement benefit that continues to this day

1923: The Classification Act sets federal salaries according to job duties and sets the standard of equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex, for federal workers in Washington, DC

1933: The first federal child care program provides child care to Works Progress Administration workers

1939: The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees’ participation in political activities

1940: Federally subsidized child care centers are created to care for the children of women working in defense agencies and defense-related sectors

1948: Public Law 617 bans discrimination against people with physical disabilities in federal hiring, provided the individuals can perform the job duties efficiently and safely

1949: The Classification Act of 1949 extends “equal pay for equal work” to all federal workers and establishes the General Schedule pay system we still use today

1962: The Federal Salary Reform Act sets the standard that federal salaries should be comparable to prviate sector salaries for similar work

1962: Executive Order 10988 affirms the right of federal workers to unionize and establishes the Federal Labor Relations Council, led by the Civil Service Commission chairperson

1970: The Hughes Act enables federal agencies to provide confidential alcohol abuse treatment programs for federal employees, paving the way for other employer-based mental health care initiatives

1978: The Public Service Reform Act divides the U.S. Civil Service Commission into three separate agencies, establishing the Office of Personnel Management

1979: Federal agencies pilot the idea of flexible work schedules, a workforce benefit adopted permanently in 1985

1989: The Whistleblower Protection Act expands protections for federal employees who report fraud, waste, or abuse in government

1993: The Family Medical Leave Act is passed, providing employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for illness or caregiving

2000: OPM establishes parity between traditional and mental health care benefits, ahead of most private-sector employers

2001: Congress mandates that every federal agency establish a telework policy covering 100% of eligible employees, advancing family-friendly workplace policies  

2013: Following a U.S. Supreme Court decision, OPM extends employees’ family benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of federal employees

2015: Executive Order 13706 mandates paid sick leave for federal contractors

2021: Executive Order 14035 requires federal agencies to evaluate hiring data and develop plans to address any barriers to equal employment opportunities

Leaders of this agency have influenced and guided the development of human resources management in the federal government since the passage of the Pendleton Act. This site is provided as a historical nod to those individuals who created and continue to maintain the rich history of this agency.

Former Office of Personnel Management Directors

  • Dale Cabaniss (September 2019-March 17, 2020)
  • Jeff T. H. Pon (March 9, 2018 - October 5, 2018)
  • Katherine Archuleta (May 23, 2013 – July 10, 2015) 
  • John Berry (April 13, 2009 – April 13, 2013)
  • Linda M. Springer (June 28, 2005 - August 13, 2008)
  • Kay Coles James (July 11, 2001 - January 31, 2005)
  • Janice R. Lachance (November 12, 1997 - January 20, 2001)
  • James B. King (April 7, 1993 - September 1, 1997)
  • Constance Berry Newman (June 8, 1989 - June 30, 1992)
  • Constance Horner (August 22, 1985 - May 10, 1989)
  • Donald J. Devine (March 23, 1981 - March 25, 1985)
  • Alan K. Campbell (January 2, 1979 - January 20, 1981)

Civil Service Commission Chairman

  • Alan K. Campbell (May 5, 1977 - January 2, 1979)
  • Robert E. Hampton (January 21, 1969 - March 1, 1979)
  • John W. Macy, Jr. (March 6, 1961 - January 20, 1969)

Visitors entering OPM headquarters, the Theodore Roosevelt Building in Washington, D.C., will see in our lobby a memorial to U.S. civil servants who have died in the line of duty.

Photo of Wall of Honor at Office of Personnel Management

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