Summary of Early Accomplishments
Since President Biden signed the Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government on January 20, 2021, OPM has worked to advance equity and remove any barriers for underserved communities in its efforts to make the Federal government a model employer, rebuild the workforce, and elevate OPM as an institution to better serve the American people.
In July 2021, Director Kiran Ahuja announced that the Chief Human Capital Officers Council’s (CHCO) functions would be restored to OPM. The restoration of these functions elevates the voices of CHCOs and strengthens the connection between Government-wide human capital strategy and policy development and agency-level human capital management. CHCOs are key partners in helping to advance the Biden-Harris Administration priorities around diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA). Additionally, in October 2021, Director Ahuja established the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (ODEIA) within OPM, and aligned it to report directly to the Office of the Director. ODEIA is charged with leading strategic DEIA government-wide priorities, working collaboratively with stakeholders, and providing the tools to help Federal agencies advance DEIA – including advising the Director on the Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce. OPM has significant equities in Executive Order 14035, and more detail on how OPM serves underserved communities and advances DEIA in the Federal government is discussed in Section 5 below.
In addition to making organizational changes, OPM convened and conducted focus group discussions with employee groups in July 2021 to hear directly from members of underserved communities and better understand if and to what extent they faced barriers in accessing Federal employee benefits. The focus groups were hosted by video conference and lasted two hours, with one hour focused on FEHB plan selection and one hour focused on retirement readiness. The four focus group discussions included 61 Federal employees and were comprised of benefits officers, employees who identify as LGBTQ+, employees who identify as a person of color, and employees who identify as persons with disabilities.
Additionally, OPM finalized a series of regulations and policy actions that deepen OPM’s commitment to making Federal service a pathway to the middle class, expanding the access of good jobs to Americans from all walks of life. OPM finalized two regulations that expands access to good-paying opportunities in Federal service, including paid internships, for post-secondary students and recent graduates: In August 2021, OPM issued a regulation that allows agencies to strategically recruit certain students to positions in the competitive service on a term or temporary basis up to a GS-11 or $74,950 in the Washington, D.C. area; and in November 2021, OPM published an interim rule designed to help agencies more easily recruit and hire recent college graduates into positions in the Federal government up to a GS-11 or $74,950 in the Washington, D.C. area. In September 2021, OPM expanded opportunity for military spouses to serve in Federal jobs by finalizing an expansion of the Military Spouse Non-Competitive Appointment Authority. Also in September, OPM issued an interim final rule to expand access to high quality health coverage by extending opportunity to enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program to additional tribal employees. Finally, in January 2022, OPM issued new pay schedules and additional guidance that fulfill the Administration’s commitment to pay every Federal employee at least $15 per hour. These actions collectively raise the pay for 67,000, out of 2.2 million, Federal employees who previously worked below this threshold. Raising pay rates across the Federal government to a minimum of $15 per hour reflects our appreciation for the Federal workforce, our values as a nation, and recognizes the importance for every Federal employee to earn a living wage.