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The President’s fiscal year 2017 budget and Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) released this week makes it clear that this Administration is committed to taking bold actions to protect Americans in today’s fast-moving digital world.
For OPM, the President’s budget proposal provides additional funding to continue the progress of enhancing our cybersecurity posture as well as modernizing our IT systems to meet evolving cybersecurity challenges.
During the past year, OPM acquired and deployed new cybersecurity tools that enhance our ability to rapidly identify and respond to emerging cyber threats. We also built a new modern infrastructure that strengthens the security of the environment to house our systems. The resources in the President’s spending plan will help us accelerate the movement of OPM’s current systems to this new, enhanced security infrastructure. Completing this migration will be a major step forward for OPM.
The CNAP roadmap will better enable OPM to build on our cybersecurity partnerships across government and will fortify our efforts to empower agencies to hire the cyber talent they need.
First, CNAP calls for the kind of increased collaboration between agencies that OPM has already established with DHS’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and other government partners to proactively take steps to enforce and enhance network security infrastructures.
The CNAP takes this collaboration a step further by directing DHS and the General Services Administration to increase the availability of government-wide shared services for information technology and cybersecurity.
The President wants to take individual agencies like OPM out of the business of building their own new security services or capabilities when there is an opportunity to leverage the collective strength and power of the Federal Government.
Second, the CNAP places a strong emphasis on enhancing cybersecurity education and training across the country, enabling Federal agencies to hire more cybersecurity experts now, and into the future.
A critical element of OPM’s mission is to provide agencies with the assistance and tools they need to recruit, hire, and retain cybersecurity talent. As part of this work that is already underway, OPM hosted a cybersecurity talent summit this week where we brought together human capital specialists from throughout the Federal Government to learn what tools and flexibilities can help them attract the employees they need.
The President’s budget invests in several CNAP initiatives that will help support OPM’s efforts and help create a pipeline of cybersecurity experts. These include expanding the Scholarship for Service program by establishing scholarships for Americans who want to pursue a cybersecurity education and serve their country by joining the Federal workforce. The initiative would also establish a cybersecurity core curriculum and enhance student loan forgiveness programs for cybersecurity experts who enter Federal service.
As OPM continues its journey to transform its information technology infrastructure and help agencies bring on board the talent they require to bolster their cyber workforce, we will benefit from the resources included in the President’s FY 2017 spending plan as well as the national cybersecurity mission outlined in the Cybersecurity National Action Plan.
Customer service is at the core of everything we do at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The President’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal released this week embraces that core principle and provides additional funding for OPM’s efforts to improve customer service for Federal retirees and their families.
Each year, more than 1.5 million current or retired Federal employees and their families call OPM’s Retirement Services team with a wide range of questions. We also receive more than 280,000 questions via email and more than 100,000 new retirement claims each year. Requests for assistance range from tax questions to inquiries about what happens when a Federal retiree has passed away. And we hear from Federal employees who have detailed questions at each step in the retirement process.
Each of these interactions is important, and every one of these individuals is entitled to a timely, accurate, and detailed response. At OPM, we are consistently working to improve the quality of this experience for our customers. The President’s budget provides additional funding to help us decrease the amount of time a customer has to wait to talk to a representative or get a response to their email. And, the added resources will help us reduce the time it takes to process a retirement claim.
At Retirement Services, 80 percent of our budget is devoted to personnel. But, at certain times in the year that is not enough and we need to add to our customer service staff to help handle spikes in retirement claims.
For example, the beginning of each year is the busiest, with 26 percent of retirement claims being filed during the first six weeks of the year. In January, we brought detailees on board from the human resources retirement sections of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) to help us handle the dramatic increase in claims.
While we certainly benefit from the dedication of these public servants, their service also improves the entire retirement process. When they return to their home agencies, they bring with them increased knowledge of our process, enabling them to better prepare retirement claims for processing by OPM.
We are constantly working to improve the customer experience. We are administering surveys and analyzing the data to identify customer service trends and to zero in on areas where improvement and change is needed. We are also updating our training and are tracking the progress of employees who take our customer service courses.
Retirement Services is also consistently upgrading and adding features to our Retirement Services Online website servicesonline.opm.gov and providing web-based tutorials for customers. Retirees can use the website to update their mailing addresses, change their Federal and state income tax withholding designations, request a duplicate annuity booklet or print their Retirement Services ID card. The more retirees and their families turn to our online services for basic needs, the quicker our team can respond to more complex questions.
We want the customer service experience to be excellent for each Federal employee who has served this great nation and deserves to receive accurate and timely benefits. The President’s FY2017 budget will help us deliver on this important goal.
Do you have something red to wear? Friday, February 5 is National Wear Red Day, a day when wearing red raises awareness about the risks of cardiovascular disease and promotes the importance of heart health, including a lifestyle that reduces the risk of developing heart disease. February is also American Heart Month, when the nation shines a spotlight on the need to promote a heart healthy lifestyle.
Cardiovascular disease is the Number 1 killer of women and men in the United States. Each of us can lower our risk of developing heart disease by knowing the risk factors and warning signs. You can lower the risk of developing heart disease by:
Watching your weight
Quitting smoking and staying away from secondhand smoke.
Controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure
Getting active and eating healthy
While you may be seeing an increased focus on heart health this month, workplaces across the Federal Government and the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program participate in programs that help our Federal family improve their heart health throughout the year. Many Federal agencies participate in StairWELL, a program that encourages employees to use the stairs while at work, and offer stress management, nutrition, and heart health education classes. All FEHB plans offer 100 percent coverage for comprehensive tobacco cessation services. This is a particularly powerful benefit because quitting smoking is associated with reducing the risk for heart disease within one to two years, as well as a reduced risk for lung cancer and many other types of cancers.
OPM is an active member of the National Prevention Council and supports the Surgeon General’s priorities to improve the health of all Americans. OPM is also a partner in the Million Hearts Initiative and we invite you to visit the Million Hearts website to learn more about preventing heart disease. Together, we can improve our health and the health of our loved ones.
As we begin the annual celebration of African American History Month, we can all be proud of the diversity of our Federal workforce and encourage all Americans to celebrate the leaders who risked their lives to fight for equality for all Americans, regardless of race.
African American leaders have had a significant impact on this country by serving in the Federal Government. From former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to President Obama, to name just a few, these inspiring men and women have changed the course of American history by breaking down racial barriers as they dedicated their lives to public service.
The theme for this year’s African American History Month, “Hallowed Grounds – Sites of African American Memories,” calls on us to remember the landmark locations across the country where African Americans struggled for freedom and justice. These historic sites include stops along the Underground Railroad, Frederick Douglass’ home in Washington, D.C., and the famous Beale Street in Memphis, located just six blocks from where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, now home to the National Civil Rights Museum.
In his annual Proclamation commemorating National African American History Month, the President encourages us by saying: “As we mark the 40th year of National African American History Month, let us reflect on the sacrifices and contributions made by generations of African Americans, and let us resolve to continue our march toward a day when every person knows the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
One of OPM’s most important missions is to help agencies across government recruit, hire, and retain a dedicated workforce that draws on the skills, character, and experiences of people of all communities in this great nation. Nearly 18 percent of the Federal Workforce is African American. But we know that African Americans are underrepresented in leadership roles and OPM is working with a number of employee and support groups on an Senior Executive Service development program to address this gap.
At OPM, one of the ways we will commemorate this important month will be by hearing from civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, one of our nation’s trailblazer Freedom Riders. In 1961, Mulholland was a 19-year-old Duke University student who had arrived in Jackson, Miss. as part of the Mississippi Freedom Ride. During the course of that summer, African American and white civil rights activists coordinated bus trips throughout the South to protest segregation in bus terminals.
The group gained worldwide attention when blacks used “whites-only” restrooms and lunch counters, a challenge to the Jim Crow laws that had been in place since the late 1870’s. They were met with violent protestors, and in some cases, such as Mulholland’s, they were arrested for their heroic actions. But due to their determination and dedication to right a wrong, by late that summer, segregation in bus and train stations was prohibited.
To learn more about Mulholland’s incredible story and her fellow Freedom Riders, check out the American Experience: Freedom Riders documentary from PBS.
Throughout the month of February and during the rest of the year, I hope all of us will take some time to reflect on those who sacrificed so much to create a more inclusive and supportive country for us all.
Mentoring is a two-way street. There are times in all our careers when we need help and guidance from a colleague or friend. And, we can learn as much from those we mentor as we can from those who advise us.
January is National Mentoring Month. Since 2010, the President has called on us to set aside time to communicate how mentoring can help us give back, support each other, and develop a world-class Federal workforce.
The Administration believes in mentoring. The President launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative that focuses on helping our youth, including through mentorship relationships. The First Lady leads the “Reach Higher” initiative that encourages campus groups and college students to connect with high school students who need role models who can help them envision a college degree.
At OPM, we are helping agencies and employees across government encourage and institute ways to match mentors and mentees and learn more about the value of mentoring.
Since last summer, we have been piloting a government-wide mentoring hub that brings together mentors and mentees. We plan to launch this program across government later this year. We have also developed the SES Situational Mentoring Program to help senior executives deal with specific challenges or opportunities. In cooperation with agencies across government, OPM is also taking the lead on the Executive Women in Motion initiative where SES members serve as mentors in an effort to encourage more women to join the executive ranks.
Agencies across government also have designed their own mentoring programs. In addition to helping mentors and mentees connect, at OPM we are celebrating mentoring month by holding a Mentor Shadowing Day, situational mentoring roundtables, and speed mentoring sessions.
I’d like to invite Federal employees across government to join us Tuesday, February 23, at our Washington, D.C. headquarters or via webcast for a program entitled “Why Mentoring Matters.” Our guest speaker will be Christina Goldfuss, managing director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who will talk about how mentoring has influenced her career.
This event was moved to February because of the snow storm.
Federal employees who would like to attend the event in person can go to hru.gov to get registration information. The link to view the webcast is: http://web.2.c3.audiovideoweb.com/ca25web26002/7c3flslive1573.html
At OPM we believe mentoring is a critical element in workforce development, and while we encourage all employees to take advantage of the mentoring programs in their agencies, you don’t need a formal program to be a mentor or to find one. Mentoring someone can be as simple as getting a cup of coffee with a colleague. And finding a mentor can be as simple as approaching a co-worker you respect and admire and asking for some advice.
As National Mentoring Month comes to a close, let’s endeavor to develop and nurture mentoring relationships throughout the year. By doing so, we will enrich our careers and we will be to provide even better service to the American people.
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