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Our Director Director's Blog

As we move from Thanksgiving into this busy holiday season, I wanted to take a moment to recognize all the hard work and effort our Federal workforce puts in every day of the year.

I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving and for those who celebrate, a happy beginning of Hanukkah.  I was fortunate to be at home in Colorado with my husband and our daughter Graciela where we enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends.

I especially want to thank those families who were apart from their loved ones who are serving our country far from home.  We honor and appreciate their sacrifice and hope they will be back with you soon.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday was an inspirational day for me. I had the honor of witnessing 35 new Americans from 20 countries take the oath of citizenship at the USCIS office in Fairfax, Va. and offering them some words of welcome.

And this was a very special group of new citizens. You see, they had not passed their first citizenship test. So they studied and studied and in the true spirit of this country, they returned Thursday to try again. And they succeeded. The look of pride in their faces and of the family members, including some young children, was heartwarming.

One by one, as the name of country they emigrated from was called, the prospective citizens stood: Albania, Bangladesh, Bolivia, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia Ghana, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Somalia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. And after all 35 were standing, Sarah Taylor, USCIS Washington District Director, administered the oath.

As I told them in my remarks, these new citizens are what America is all about. It’s about hard work. It’s about determination. And we need Americans like this to make our country grow and prosper. The United States has always been a country of immigrants who come to our shores to find a better life. And I was privileged to be a small part of their journey.

 Photo of Director Achuleta, Sarah Taylor (District Director US Citizenship and Immigration Services), Kimbelry Zanotti (Field Office Director US Citizenship and Immigration Services) and a woman who is becoming a citizen.

This week, I joined leaders from across the Federal government and more than 300 Tribal Nations for the 2013 White House Tribal Nations Conference. I welcomed the opportunity to co-moderate a session on reinforcing relationships between the Federal government and tribes.

President Obama has led historic levels of cooperation between tribal governments and the Federal government, including holding four White House Tribal Nations conferences. One of my top priorities is to improve the representation of people from all backgrounds and communities within the Federal government, especially Native Americans, and we’ve already made some progress together.

We’ve coordinated with the Society for American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) to improve the representation of American Indians/Alaska Natives in the Federal workforce, from the Senior Executive Service to internship and recent graduate positions, including the Presidential Management Fellows. At the last two SAIGE Conferences we were able to provide SES preparation training, with the vision of helping to build a pipeline of American Indian/Alaska Native that leads to the SES. We’ve reached out to Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) to share information about the Pathways Program, which offers clear paths to Federal internships for students from high school through post-graduate school.

We’re making progress in healthcare, too. OPM enrolled employees of tribes and tribal organizations in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), made possible by the Affordable Care Act. There are currently 55 participating tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations from fifteen states that have enrolled approximately 10,000 employees in the FEHBP.

I’m pleased with these steps, but we have so much more to do. We want tribal leaders as our allies, to help us promote and champion public service. Together, we can build the diverse pipelines agencies need. We look forward to a strong partnership with tribes and tribal colleges as they develop a new generation of doctors, scientists, teachers, business owners, firefighters, judges and law enforcement professionals interested in serving tribal communities for many years to come.

On Wednesday at the Tribal Nations Conference, there were productive and exciting discussions on these topics and many more. I look forward to our chance to work together, learn from each other, and make progress in the coming months and years because there is so much that tribal communities have to bring to the table.

The President put it best in his remarks to the conference:

“For generations, these men and women have helped keep our covenant strong.  So now we’ve got to keep strong what they’ve built, for this and generations to come.  It falls to us to keep America the place where no matter where you come from, what you look like, you can always make it as long as you try, as long as you work hard.  And I know that that’s what -- all of you are working hard.  That’s what you represent as leaders of the communities that are represented here from coast to coast.  I want you to know that's what I’m working for.  That’s the partnership that I cherish, and I will cherish as long as I have the honor of serving as your President.”

Posted 10:45 AM by
Today our Nation honors each of you, America’s veterans, who have served so faithfully and honorably. We pause to remember the sacrifices our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen have made in serving our Nation where and when you were needed. Veterans Day is more than a holiday; it is a day of heartfelt appreciation to all who have served our great country in the Armed Forces.

In his Veterans Day Proclamation, President Obama has been clear: 

"Under the most demanding of circumstances and in the most dangerous corners of the earth, America's veterans have served with distinction. With courage, self-sacrifice, and devotion to our Nation and to one another, they represent the American character at its best. On Veterans Day and every day, we celebrate their immeasurable contributions, draw inspiration from their example, and renew our commitment to showing them the fullest support of a grateful Nation."

For the full text of the Proclamation, click here:

One way we at OPM honor our Nation’s promises is by making Federal civilian employment opportunities available when our servicemen and women lay their uniforms down.  This is not only a matter of honor; the courage, integrity, and determination that you displayed in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard makes you ideal candidates for Federal service.  Every American benefits from retaining the dedication, leadership, skills, and abilities veterans have honed in the fast-paced, dynamic environments of our armed services.

And, in the words of John F. Kennedy, “ As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

It has been four years since President Obama established the Veterans Employment Initiative, and OPM continues to lead the charge to honor and appreciate your service by ensuring that you have the opportunity to continue your service to this great Nation as Federal civilian employees.

On behalf of our Nation and its people, I thank you for your service – past, present, and future.

My first week at OPM is already over and it’s been an intense, exciting, challenging and informative first five days on the job. I’ve had the chance to meet the senior staff and their support teams. I’ve also learned a great deal about all of the intricacies of OPM’s departments and how much everyone at OPM does on a daily basis. So, for that, thank you. Your work is important and impressive. We couldn’t run this agency without you.

I thought this would be a good time to talk to you all about a few of my priorities and goals for my time at OPM.

First and foremost, I want to be your champion. I want the American people to know who you are, and what you do, and how that makes a difference in their daily lives. I am going to represent you across the country, because you deserve the recognition. You deserve to have people know how hard you work and that you dedicate long hours to very difficult issues. Federal employees deserve to be recognized.

I want to tackle some of our most pressing issues to ensure that we are able to serve to the best of our ability. In my first 100 days at OPM, I plan to work with my team to create a plan for handing I.T. modernization across the agency, especially for retirement. I’ve had the chance to meet and talk with our new CTO, the CIO and others every day this week, and I can say that there are some fantastic ideas in the mix. We’re definitely on the right track.

I also want to make sure that the Federal workforce looks like America, that it is diverse, inclusive, and reflects the people we serve. If you are smart, if you are dedicated, and if you are ready to work hard for what you believe in, we want you here. We will continue to build stronger pipelines into Federal service and ensure that we are cultivating and attracting the talent that we need so that from resume through retirement we have the strongest workforce possible.

This week, I challenged the employees at OPM to something. I challenged them to think beyond what is difficult and to help determine how we can accomplish the impossible.  When we set the bar high, when we strive to push our own boundaries of thinking, we move the needle. And that is what we need.

Thank you again for your warm welcomes, your patience, and, most of all, your dedicated hard work. This was just week one and I can already see how great we will be together.

Today is my first day at OPM, and I am excited to be joining this great team. For my inaugural blog post, I wanted to share with you my message to the OPM workforce. Please check back here in the coming months for more on my activities as Director of OPM.

I know everyone who starts a new job says they are both excited and nervous for their first day, but I think, today, that I am just excited and honored to be here with all of you. I am humbled by the opportunity to serve the President, the American people, and you, as the 10th Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the first Hispanic to hold the office.

Earlier this morning, I was officially sworn-in by Elaine Kaplan, who has done a spectacular job of leading this agency during the transition.  I want to thank her for keeping the seat warm for me and doing a tremendous job. We all want to wish her well as she steps into her robe and onto the bench as a Judge at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

I start my first day filled with hope and encouragement. There is hard work ahead and many challenges we will face, but I know that the incredible team here at OPM – including all of you – is ready to stand by my side and work together to get the job done.

I look forward to spending time with all of you over the coming weeks and months as we work toward making the Federal government a diverse and inclusive environment and recruit, retain, and honor a world-class workforce.

Let’s get to work!

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