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    This week OPM held its inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Collaboration and Innovation Summit at the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters. We brought together individuals from across government who are committed and passionate about finding innovative ways to fulfill the President’s Management Agenda’s goal of creating a more diverse, inclusive, and engaged Federal workforce.

    I was happy to kick off the two-day summit by stressing that we need to think about diversity and inclusion not as something “nice” to have, but as a “must have.” Diverse workforces can draw from the expertise, backgrounds, and experiences of individuals from every community in this country. When we have more diverse talent, we can better fulfill our mission to provide excellent service to the American people.

    Our national security leaders, for example, recognize that increasing diversity in their ranks would help enrich the insights and perspectives they need to protect the security of America.


    The people who attended this two-day summit know the basics. But the basics aren’t enough. To make real progress, we need to tackle the hard stuff. We need to not only have a diverse group of leaders around the decision table, we need to actually seek everyone’s input and make it part of the decision-making process.

    All employees should feel valued when they come to work. They need to know that their opinions matter, that they are respected as individuals, and that they have an impact on the important work their agencies are doing. That’s what drives real employee engagement.

    One big success we have already seen across government is in hiring people with disabilities. In 2010, the President issued an Executive Order directing Federal agencies to hire 100,000 people with disabilities. I am happy to say that we’ve exceeded that goal, thanks in part to a tool called the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). The WRP helps hiring managers find qualified students with disabilities who are just starting out in their careers. The WRP, which is managed jointly by the Departments of Labor and Defense, has more than 1800 names that Federal managers can tap into to find qualified candidates in fields ranging from health care to computer specialists.

    That is just one example of the many creative solutions we are seeing across government. We have seen innovative ways of attracting diverse hires in the STEM field, including women and underrepresented minorities. I hope the summit will generate countless other ideas that we will likely be talking about at summits to come.

    In the meantime, keep the discussion going - in every agency, office, and on every team. Share your ideas. Nothing is too bold. We need everyone’s help to make the Federal government the model workforce for the American people. It’s only when we remember that diversity cannot be an add-on to your mission, but is critical to it, that we will get the transformation we need.

    Photo of Acting Director Colbert presenting the Diversity and Inclusion Drives Innovation at the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters.


    Last week, at the annual Carrier Conference, OPM met with the insurance carriers that provide our Federal family across the nation with an array of health plan choices.

    The conference offered OPM the opportunity to discuss details and trends with the insurers who offer coverage to the 8.2 million Federal employees, retirees, and their families who depend on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) for coverage.

    April is Autism Awareness month, and on April 1 the President issued a proclamation in honor of World Autism Awareness Day. With this being Autism Awareness month, I want to highlight one important change OPM is making to the FEHB benefit package that will impact children on the autism spectrum. Beginning in 2017, OPM will expect all our insurers to offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) benefits to children on the autism spectrum.

    When I addressed the FEHB insurers at the Carrier Conference, I reminded them that for the past several years OPM has been encouraging plans to cover this treatment. I’m happy to say that since 2013 more and more plans have been offering this intensive therapy, which is becoming a leading form of treatment for children on the autism spectrum. In fact, 43 states now require health insurers to cover ABA.

    But despite the recent voluntary expansion, OPM continued to receive letters from Federal families desperate to get coverage for their children. We heard from Federal families who had to pay out-of-pocket for this expensive care. By requiring every plan to cover ABA, all Federal employees with children on the autism spectrum will have access to this important coverage.

    In addition to the obvious benefits to our Federal employees and their families, it is important that our FEHB benefits are on par with the private, academic, and non-profit sectors.  In fact, the results from our 2015 Employee Benefits Survey bear this out:  67 percent of respondents said the availability of FEHB influenced their decision to take a Federal job. And 78 percent said having that benefit influences their decision to stay. Very simply, if the Federal Government does not offer high quality and inclusive health benefits, we run the risk of not attracting and retaining a high quality Federal workforce.

    The addition of ABA coverage for children on the autism spectrum is another example of how OPM is continually evaluating and updating health benefits for Federal employees, retirees, and their families.

    Photo of Acting Director Colbert addressing the FEHB insurers at the Annual Carrier Conference.

    Infographic with silhouettes of doctors a map and mosquito Text which reads: OPM has issued Direct-Hire Authority to help Federal agencies move quickly as they respond to Zika in the U.S. and around the world. Federal agencies with direct-hire authority include: Department of State, Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Learn more about the virus and safety tips: www.cdc.gov/zika

    One of our most important responsibilities at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is to help departments and agencies hire the talented employees they need to fulfill their missions. As the world confronts the Zika virus, OPM is enabling Federal officials to more quickly and efficiently bring on the talented individuals they need to aid in the response.

    Time is critical, and a fast-moving illness like Zika requires an equally fast response. So OPM is contributing to the response by authorizing emergency hiring flexibility for positions crucial to dealing with this crisis.

    Several key Federal agencies – the Departments of State (State), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) - need to quickly hire specialists who can aid in this coordinated effort. To help agency leaders accomplish that, OPM has offered them what we call Direct-Hire Authority. This is a streamlined and expedited hiring process that will allow these agencies to quickly bring on the people they need to immediately address the Zika crisis.

    Federal health experts are working to improve mosquito control efforts and refine Zika testing methods. They are also providing support and guidance to health care providers and to the public about travel plans and precautions they can take to guard against the virus. Direct-Hire Authority will allow the agencies responding to move more quickly.

    Among the dozens of Federal positions possibly needed are medical officers and nurses at State, microbiologists and epidemiologists at HHS, and emergency management and IT specialists at USAID. To view job postings in these fields, among others needed, please visit USAJOBS.gov.

    The White House is taking an all-of-government approach to this crisis and to protecting the American people from Zika. The urgency of this effort was underscored by the President in his recent letter to Congress in which he asked for approximately $1.9 billion in emergency funding to respond to the Zika virus both domestically and internationally.

    “My foremost priority is to protect the health and safety of Americans,” the President said in his letter to Congress. “This request supports the necessary steps to fortify our domestic health system, detect and respond to any potential Zika outbreaks at home, and to limit the spread in other countries.”

    The emergency funds the President is seeking also would provide emergency assistance to states and the U.S. territories to combat the virus, including federal Medicaid funding in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories for health services for pregnant women at risk of infection or diagnosed with Zika virus, and for children with microcephaly; support an acceleration of research and development on vaccines, therapies, and improved diagnostics, as well as on advanced approaches to mosquito control. The additional staff that OPM’s Direct-Hire Authority will allow agencies to hire will be critical in these efforts.

    Like all Americans, Federal employees who plan to travel for business or personal reasons in the upcoming weeks and months may be understandably concerned. My advice is to visit the State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Travelers' Health websites for the most updated travel information. This CDC website also details preventive measures you can take to protect yourself against Zika if you do plan to travel to one of the affected areas. The locations with ongoing Zika virus transmission are likely to change over time, so be sure to check back to these websites before each trip you are planning to take.

    When facing emerging health threats such as this, the world looks to the United States as a leader in providing the tools, resources, and individuals needed to respond. And we know that Americans are looking to our talented public health officials and scientists to be at the forefront of the efforts to combat this illness. OPM will continue to support our colleagues across the Federal Government in their efforts to hire the talented individuals needed to protect and defend Americans and our partners across the globe from the Zika virus.


    Women's History Month graphic with photos of past and present women who've served in government which reads: Women's History Month 2016, Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.

    As we begin a month-long commemoration of National Women’s History Month, I’m glad that this year’s theme honors women in public service. It’s a perfect time for us to reflect on the accomplishments of women in government who succeeded, often against great odds. It’s also the right time to recommit ourselves to encouraging the next generation of women leaders

    The National Women’s History Project has named 15 women who it says “have shaped America’s history and its future through their public service and government leadership.” Included in this accomplished group are four women who dedicated their lives to Federal service:

    • Sonia Pressman Fuentes, co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the first woman attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 
    • Judy Hart, who in her 27-year career with the National Parks Service became the founding superintendent of the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, N.Y. and of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Park in Richmond, Calif., 
    • Oveta Culp Hobby, the first commanding officer of Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II and the first Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, now the Department of Health and Human Services. 
    • Nancy Grace Roman, an astronomer, was the first woman executive at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She was known as the “Mother of Hubble” for her contributions to the establishment of the Hubble Space Telescope.

    From young women in high school and college studying such critical skills as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) to women in mid-career, it’s important that government reach out, as part of its overall recruitment efforts, and encourage them to join in serving the American people. OPM is committed to helping agencies find and develop the talent to follow in the footsteps of the distinguished leaders we honor this month.

    We are working with agencies to identify and remove any barriers that managers may face in recruiting the diverse talent they need, including women. Through OPM initiatives like Executive Women in Motion, we are bringing aspiring women leaders together with mentors who can help them and encourage them to become members of the Senior Executive Service.

    OPM issues guidance to agencies to help promote the policies that help women – and men – balance the needs of their families and the responsibilities of their jobs. This includes such workplace flexibilities as telework and alternative work schedules.

    OPM also provides data on the continued narrowing of the pay gap in the Federal workforce. In 1992, Federal women in white-collar jobs made 70-cents on the dollar compared to men. The most recent data we have show that by 2012 that number was 87 cents. Women in Federal leadership positions are doing even better. In 2012, these women were paid 99.2 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts.

    Working with the Department of Justice, OPM is also helping agencies develop strategies and training to increase awareness of and help colleagues support victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse, and Stalking.

    As the President said in his proclamation recognizing March as Women’s History Month, “We have come far, but there is still far to go in shattering the glass ceiling that holds women back. This month, as we reflect on the marks made by women throughout history, let us uphold the responsibility that falls on all of us -- regardless of gender -- and fight for equal opportunity for our daughters as well as our sons.”

    OPM, like other agencies across government, will set aside time this month to celebrate the achievements of women in Federal service. I want to thank all Federal employees for the work they do every day to fulfill their missions to serve the American people.


    - Photo of a grey colored bridge as the background. Headline: 2016 NATIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH. Subhead: HALLOWED GROUND.

    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.


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