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The background is a close up of two windows of OPM's headquarters in Washington D.C. reflected in the window is American and OPM flags waving in the wind. Beside the building is blue sky and in black text:

Every day, the 2.1 million women and men of the Federal Workforce tackle some of our country’s most pressing issues. Whether caring for our veterans, supporting our troops, fighting forest fires, or planning a mission to Mars, Federal employees are focused on making life better for the American people.

In a 2014 address, President Obama said: “To rise to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we need a Federal Workforce with the necessary skills, experience, and tools to meet its diverse mission now and in the future.”  At the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), we work to fulfill this vision. Our mission is to help agencies recruit, retain, and honor a world-class Federal workforce to serve the American people.

Today, OPM has joined our sister agencies in sketching out for the American people a summary of the efforts we have made during this administration to fulfill the President’s vision.

Over the past eight years, our overarching focus has been to modernize the way OPM supports agencies, current and former Federal employees, and their families. By embracing new ways to use data to make decisions, investing in new tools and technologies, and streamlining our processes, we have helped foster a workforce capable of tackling 21st century challenges. In particular, we have focused on:

  • Making the Federal Government a model employer by adopting workplace policies that reflect the modern American economy;

     

  • Strengthening the personnel system to improve Federal agencies’ capacity to recruit, hire, develop, engage, and retain workforces ready to meet 21st century challenges;

     

  • Building a roadmap to better protecting the integrity of the Federal workforce by modernizing the way the government performs background investigations;

     

  • Improving our operations by embracing new tools and technology and enhancing our focus on customer service and cyber security.

The memorandum goes into detail about our agency-wide efforts. I want to highlight just some of the work we’ve done. You can see a fuller description of these efforts and what we see as the best way to continue this journey in OPM’s full memorandum.

In striving to make the Federal government a model employer, OPM has expanded opportunities for people from all elements of society. We’ve made progress in closing the gender pay gap, increased workplace flexibilities to help employees balance their work life and home life. We’ve also promoted diversity and inclusion in the Federal workforce.

Strengthening the personnel system needs to reinforce and build on the merit system principles that represent the bedrock values that have long stood as the foundation of this nation’s civil service system.

Through our Pathways programs we’ve created clearer paths to Federal careers for students and recent graduates and enabled the government to compete more effectively with the private sector for this talent. We’ve brought experts from the private sector into government through innovative fellowship programs. And we established a hiring excellence campaign to help human resources specialists and managers hire the critical talent they need.

The events of recent years have underscored the need to guard against threats to the Federal Government’s personnel, property, and information systems. OPM plays a central role in protecting against threats as we conduct 95 percent of the Federal Government’s background investigations that help agencies make employment, security clearance, and credentialing decisions. By establishing the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) and continuing to modernize the background investigations process, OPM has come a long way in helping the Federal Government build and maintain a trusted workforce.

At OPM customer service is at the heart of everything we do. OPM has embraced new tools and technologies to help deliver better customer service and better secure the information we house. We’ve made significant progress in modernizing and securing information technology systems. We continue to provide high quality health benefits for the 9.2 million Federal employees, retirees and their families who are enrolled in the Federal Employment health Benefit program.

These are some of the highlights of the work OPM has done during this administration to fulfill our mission to recruit, hire, develop, retain and honor the men and women who work every day to deliver excellent service to the American people.

There is much more work to be done. I am confident that the dedicated men and women of OPM will continue in their efforts to build an even greater workforce now, and in the future.

 


This Veterans Day, as we honor and express our gratitude to the men and women who so valiantly served our nation in uniform, I want us to take a moment and think about the battle so many of our returning heroes face – how to make the transition to the next chapter of their lives.

I’m thinking about veterans like Christopher, who after being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during his decade of service in the Air Force went from job to job, doing work that did not satisfy him.

Or Georgia, a disabled combat veteran whose work as a water purification and distribution specialist during Desert Shield/Desert Storm did not, she said, translate very well in the civilian sector.

Or Julien, a Purple Heart recipient who was a field radio operator in the Marine Corps. When he left the military, his challenge was to balance going to school full time and working full time.

Veterans like these were on President Obama’s mind when he issued Executive Order 13518 to honor our obligations to our nation’s returning service members and establish a hallmark Federal employment initiative to encourage more veterans to join the Federal service.

A look at the numbers shows we’re delivering on the President’s objective. When he issued his 

Executive Order on November 9, 2009, the percentage of new veterans hired into the Federal Government was 24 percent. At the end of fiscal year (FY) 2015, that percentage was 32.5 percent. Since FY 2009, the Federal Government has hired more than half a million veterans in 24 different agencies.

But the numbers don’t begin to tell the whole story or speak to why the President and I believe it’s critical for the Federal Government to recruit talented, qualified, and dedicated veterans for the Federal workforce.

Not only is hiring veterans the right thing to do, it makes good business sense. The skills, leadership, and discipline that veterans bring to Federal workplaces across this great nation are essential to our ability to meet our mission to serve the American people.  Our collective challenge was and remains to understand and capitalize on the strengths that these veterans can bring to Federal service, and to help connect them with agencies across the government that need these skills. 

Each year the Federal Government spends millions of dollars training service members like Christopher, Georgia and Julien to meet many and varied challenges. When service members are ready to hang up their uniforms and transition to civilian life, we can maximize our investments in their training by encouraging them to continue serving their country as civilian Federal employees.

As part of the President’s veterans initiative we created the one-stop website for Federal employment– FedsHireVets.gov – where veterans and their families can get information and resources to help them find employment opportunities. Veteran Employment Program Offices are in place in 24 agencies and the website provides information on how veterans can connect with these offices to learn about career opportunities and about how to navigate the Federal employment process.

The Executive Order also established the President’s Council on Veterans Employment, which has tackled such issues as helping agencies find ways to retain the talented veterans they hire. The Council also looked at how to maximize opportunities for women veterans to join the Federal service.

But the real success stories come from veterans themselves.

After trying out different jobs Christopher became a volunteer, then an intern with the National Park Service. He says he is now “living my dream” as a Park Ranger in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in California.

Georgia now works for the Bureau of Land Management as an Outdoor Recreation Planner and says the best part of her job is she knows that what she does “makes a difference.”

And Julien now has a bachelor’s of science in business administration, is working at the Department of Labor and says: “I could not be more thrilled about the next stage of my career in the Federal Government.”

Even as we celebrate this progress and the success stories of these talented veterans, we must rededicate ourselves to helping more of their fellow veterans and help agencies recruit, train and retain these talented employees.

And on this Veterans Day, I want to thank the women and men who made the choice to serve their fellow Americans - first in uniform and now as part of the two-million strong Federal workforce.


A picture of Acting Director Cobert walking down the steps Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

 


Background with storm clouds, with the phrase 'Domestic Violence Awareness' phrase in purple, next to a purple ribbon and OPM.gov in the bottom right corner

We all know that domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking (DVSAS) are significant problems that affect individuals, families, and communities. The unfortunate reality is that – whether we know it or not – at some point in our careers most of us likely will have a colleague who has experienced or is experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The effects of such violence often don’t just remain within the walls of the home.  They affect all of us who live and work with victims and survivors, their children, and other loved ones. To do our part in providing all employees with a safe and supportive workplace, OPM and DOJ have announced a new online training to educate Federal employees and managers on this sensitive topic.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and whether DVSAS has affected you personally, a family member or friend, this issue is unfortunately, extremely prevalent in today’s society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on average, 20 people per minute in the United States are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner and domestic violence costs our nation approximately $8 billion a year in lost productivity and health care costs. CDC data finds that more than one in three women and more than one in four men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

As the largest employer in the nation, the Federal Government has a duty to promote the health and safety of its employees by providing support and assistance to those whose working lives are affected by DVSAS. In his 2012 “Presidential Memorandum on Establishing Policies for Addressing Domestic Violence in the Federal Workforce,” the President made this issue a priority, saying, “The Federal Government should act as a model in responding to the effects of domestic violence on its workforce. Agencies have taken steps to address this issue and by building on these important efforts and existing policies, the Federal Government can further address the effects of domestic violence on its workforce.”

The memorandum directs Federal agencies to consider implementing programs to educate and train supervisors, human resources personnel, and employees about the effects of DVSAS in the workplace. As a result of this directive, OPM partnered with DOJ’s Office on Violence against Women to provide agencies with guidance and technical assistance in developing their internal human resources policies supporting employees that may be victims or survivors. The newly released online training is a strong step forward in helping fulfill the President’s goal. 

The interactive and informative training shows how DVSAS is a workplace issue, gives signs and symptoms of DVSAS to watch out for, describes how to maintain confidentiality in the workplace, and identifies the internal and external resources available to assist employees and managers dealing with this issue.

I encourage all Federal employees to complete the training, which approaches the DVSAS topic in a realistic way. It is available government-wide through HR University.

DVSAS is not only a personal issue, it is a workplace issue. At OPM, across the government, and in other places of employment, we need to work together to ensure our employees have a safe and nurturing environment in which to work. With this training, and the agency-specific DVSAS workplace policies, we will be at the forefront of preparing the workforce for proactive and effective response to potential DVSAS-related incidents they may encounter in the workplace.


A gold background on the left with the NBIB seal in dark blue. The right half has a navy blue background with the white text National Background Investigations Bureau and NBIB.gov in the right corner.

Earlier this year, the Administration announced a series of policy decisions to streamline and enhance how the Federal government conducts background investigations. A central component in this effort is the establishment of the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), a new semi-autonomous entity within the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). NBIB will be the primary provider of effective, efficient, and secure background investigations for the Federal Government. NBIB is designed with an enhanced focus on national security, customer service, and continuous process improvement to meet this critical government-wide need now and in the future.

Today, the President took the next step in this effort by issuing an Executive Order (EO) that sets forth the new interagency framework to modernize, strengthen and secure the Federal Government’s background investigation process, including the roles and responsibilities for NBIB and for DoD’s related IT efforts.

In addition, the Administration is announcing the appointment of Charles S. Phalen, Jr. as NBIB’s first Director. Mr. Phalen brings a wealth of experience and security expertise from the Federal Government and the private sector to NBIB. As Director of Security for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 2007 to 2011, he led the CIA’s world-wide security program, responsible for investigating and clearing agency personnel and protecting the workforce and agency facilities. From 2011 until April of 2016, Mr. Phalen served as Vice President of Corporate Security at the Northrop Grumman Corporation, and has continued to participate in several industry security organizations. In his new role, Mr. Phalen will leverage his deep expertise in personnel security, information security, and physical security from both the Federal Government and industry as he leads NBIB in its mission to deliver modernized, timely, quality background investigations.

Mr. Phalen will take the helm of NBIB, which will be headquartered in Washington D.C., beginning on October 1st, when NBIB absorbs the existing mission, functions, and personnel of OPM’s Federal Investigative Services (FIS) and begins to implement a number of changes designed to improve the background investigations process.

NBIB will feature a new organizational structure that institutionalizes strategic stakeholder engagement, an agile acquisition strategy, and the use of innovative, data-driven methods to make improvements in processes.  These aspects will be critical as the new organization assumes responsibility for managing the fieldwork contracts OPM recently awarded and other important initiatives to improve capacity and draw down the current backlog of investigations. 

Key aspects of NBIB that distinguish it from the previous organization include:

  • Enhanced IT security through continued partnership with DOD. NBIB and the Department of Defense (DoD) will work in close collaboration to develop the next generation IT digital platform that will be modern, secure and mission-driven. The digital environment will be built on a foundation of government-wide standards that promote security, interoperability, and information sharing that are the key principles outlined in the Performance Accountability Council (PAC) Enterprise IT Strategy.
  • Creation of a law enforcement liaison unit to improve criminal history records access and information exchanges in a digitized platform. A major component of the work done by NBIB will involve the acquisition and management of records from a variety of sources, including its counterparts in law enforcement. It is vital that background investigators have the critical Criminal History Records Information (CHRI) from state and local law enforcement agencies in order to have complete data with which to conduct their investigations. One key to improving the timeliness of investigations is the ability to obtain these records through automated databases and exchanges, which currently in many communities can only be obtained by field investigators.
  • Creation of an office to lead the way in automation and management of background investigation records collection. The establishment of a Federal Investigative Records Enterprise (FIRE) office will equip NBIB to lead the way in automation and management of government-wide investigative records collection and retention. NBIB’s FIRE office will promote records automation and an increased focus on information sharing agreements with interagency partners, state and local entities, and commercial records providers. The FIRE will be dedicated to standardizing data exchanges for records information as a hallmark of the investigations enterprise, leveraging new and evolving data sources such as social media checks.  The FIRE will work closely with the newly established Law Enforcement Liaison Office to promote and augment cooperative exchanges of vital records in a digitized platform.
  • Establishment of a Business Transformation Unit dedicated to transforming business processes to be more efficient. Business Process Reengineering methodologies will identify needs and requirements that improve the timeliness and cost of investigations.  Working with NBIB’s interagency partners, the unit will strategically migrate traditional investigative processes to leverage continuously available data sources and new sources of relevant information. NBIB’s policy function will employ analytics for effective data-driven policies and decisions.  
  • Reorganized field operations to consolidate management of federal and contract field operations. NBIB will consolidate management of Federal and contract investigative functions under a single organization. This provides better organizational alignment and facilitates efforts to synchronize workload management efforts on a global scale across NBIB’s multiple investigative resources and to leverage new tools for workload management as they are designed and built.  Management of the counterintelligence activity function will also be streamlined to focus on important national security and other interagency engagement.
  • Establishment of a dedicated Customer Engagement unit focused on customer service delivery. This unit will embed interagency representation of skilled and experienced personnel from stakeholder agencies. An Interagency Customer Service Advisory Board (ICSAB) will be established to advise the NBIB Director on issues relevant to customer service.
  • Dedicated support to NBIB.  As announced earlier this year, NBIB will have dedicated resources to support its mission and provide NBIB the ability to function effectively and efficiently. It will have its own procurement staff and contracting activity, as well as a senior privacy official, while continuing to leverage the shared services within OPM. NBIB will have dedicated support personnel in the areas of legal counsel, communications, congressional affairs, and human resources.
  • Consolidating Suitability Executive Agent.  OPM will form a dedicated Suitability Executive Agent entity to consolidate and enhance the suitability policy, oversight, and adjudications functions. This dedicated unit will report to the OPM Director, and provide agencies expanded guidance on policies and processes related to suitability. It will also engage in a two-way dialogue with agencies to identify opportunities to further modernize and make more efficient processes and tools used for suitability decisions.

The changes announced today are designed to focus on the integration of innovation and continuous business process improvement to enhance the delivery of background investigations and support an efficient and effective organization that is keenly focused on customer service and national security. The NBIB’s Director will continue the close working relationship between OPM and DoD in its significant IT leadership role and regularly consult with the larger federal community as it implements these changes to modernize and strengthen the way we conduct background investigations.



Light blue background with an open lock to the left. On the lock it says FEVS. In the top right corner are graph icons in circles. On the bottom is a dark blue footer that says: OPM.GOV/FEVS and #FEVS. In the middle of the graphic in white text it says: UnlockTalent.gov. Underneath it says: Visualization Tool, in all caps in dark blue text. Underneath it says: Agency level results now available in white text.

Having an engaged workforce is critical to each agency’s ability to achieve its mission of providing excellent service to the American people. The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results provide a window into how engaged and satisfied the Federal workforce is.

Today, the Office of Personnel Management is releasing agency-level results of the 2016 FEVS. The results are available at UnlockTalent.gov, the comprehensive, interactive visualization dashboard that helps government leaders make data-driven decisions and design initiatives to improve overall engagement and employee satisfaction at Federal agencies.

Last week we previewed the FEVS data which, for the second year, shows Federal employees are more satisfied with their jobs and feel more engaged in their workplaces.

Below, two of my colleagues whose agencies have worked hard to respond to their FEVS results outline what steps they took to sustain and improve their engagement scores. Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, shares the work he and his team have done to improve their FEVS results and Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, describes how his agency consistently maintains high engagement scores, Their perspectives are just two examples of the continuing commitment of leaders across government – working with their staffs and in partnership with labor – to improving employee engagement of their workforce.

From Secretary Johnson:

Improving morale within the Department of Homeland Security has been one of my top priorities as Secretary.  I have said many times that, this year, morale will improve.  Our aggressive campaign to improve morale across this 22-component, 232,000-person workforce has produced results.

Today the Office of Personnel Management released the 2016 results for the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS).  These results reflect that employee engagement at DHS, after six straight years of decline, went up three whole percentage points this year – from 53 percent in 2015 to 56 percent this year.  This is no anomaly.  It is regarded by OPM as statistically significant, and compares favorably to the 1 percent increase across the entire U.S. government.  This increased morale at DHS was the result of some very hard work, and is the largest increase of any Cabinet Department our size.   

Hopefully, these improved results are the beginning of a new, upward trend.  I hope the next Secretary of Homeland Security continues to make employee morale a top priority.

Of particular note:

  • DHS leaders told our employees that their views mattered to us, and that we wanted to hear from them this year.  In response, DHS’s participation in FEVS went up from 47.1 percent last year (compared to 49.7 percent government-wide) to 50.1 percent this year (compared to 45.8 percent government-wide).   
  • Survey results for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (a 19,000-person agency) went up 7 percent --from 48 percent last year to 55 percent this year. Much of this increase came from within ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).  Over the last two years, ERO has responded effectively to my new immigration enforcement priorities that have focused more sharply on public safety and border security.  At the same time, we have reformed the pay scale for ERO officers, to reflect the good work they do for public safety.  
  • The Secret Service ended a multi-year slide in employee satisfaction.  In 2013, it was 62 percent  in 2014 it was 56 percent; in 2015 it was 49 percent.  This year employee satisfaction at the Secret Service came in at 50 percent.  Within DHS, the Secret Service saw the biggest survey participation increase, from 41.8 percent last year to 59.0 percent this year. 

From NASA Administrator Bolden

“NASA is proud to have been named the “Best Place to Work” in the Federal Government (among large agencies) for the past four consecutive years by the Partnership for Public Service. Using the FEVS as a focal point for guidance, over time we have developed a positive work culture with a high level of employee engagement through deliberate, proactive initiatives.

I’ve always told our employees that their voices matter.  At NASA, it’s especially critical, as much of our work is difficult and dangerous and sometimes lives are in the balance.  We must have a culture where speaking up and providing feedback is encouraged.  I’ve made nurturing that culture a centerpiece of my leadership and we created a Workforce Culture Strategy to communicate and codify these values. 

With some 18,000 employees at NASA, getting feedback can be daunting and the EVS helps provide a vehicle where people feel they can be candid and offer constructive comments without putting themselves or their jobs at risk.  We use it to help offices within our organization to improve and to share their successes. At NASA, we consider ourselves a family and, like any family, there can be some bumps in the road.  The EVS helps us get past them.

Based on last year’s employee feedback, we focused this year on second-level performance reviews to support and encourage fairness in ratings and we created a Leader’s Handbook to guide supervisors and employees, and to foster organizational health.

I’m still listening – and feel privileged to be working with such a talented, creative workforce.  The best part of serving as NASA Administrator continues to be witnessing how open and honest opinions and ideas have changed NASA for the better.  Our entire NASA senior leadership team sincerely cares about our workforce’s opinions and is ready to take action.”

I want to thank my colleagues and their teams for using the FEVS to make progress on employee engagement. I know agency leaders across government are using this important tool to make similar strides. All of us need to work each and every day to make sure the talented people who work for the Federal Government feel valued, included, and engaged in their jobs.

 


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