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    Open Government Blog

    Posted 2:41 PM by

    If you have a question about our policies or services, try our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). There you’ll see a list of the top 10 questions. You’ll also be able to browse by topics such as insurance, retirement, or personnel documentation. Or you can search by keyword.

    We encourage you to use the FAQs to their fullest to get answers to your questions, and we welcome your comments on our open government efforts here.

    The Office of Management and Budget recently requested a self-evaluation of each Executive Branch agency’s Open Government efforts. Some of the areas evaluated are publishing government information on our website, improving the quality of the information we provide, and ways we encourage participation with citizens. In 2010 we conducted our first self assessment. We are happy to report we have continued to make significant progress on all three tenets of openness: transparency, collaboration, and participation. Our recent activities include:

    • Hiring a dedicated records officer who has been systematically implementing improvements to records management at OPM.
    • Exploring social media for interacting with the public. We have Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube accounts, all accessible from our homepage. We were particularly pleased to receive kudos on a recent earthquake-related Facebook post: "Thanks for keeping us informed! You guys are doing a great job in using social media to keep feds informed."
    • Expanding online training for OPM employees with integrated social media tools, one of which allows users to share comments on books in our online library.
    • Using a crowdsourcing tool to get ideas from employees on how to improve our work and environment here at OPM.

    Of course we will continue to work with our employees, our customers and other federal agencies on ways we can improve. In the next few weeks we’ll ask for your feedback on plain writing in our documents and then report back to you on our progress. We remain committed to working with and for you. Please feel free to leave your comments on how to make OPM more open here on our blog.

    Posted 4:57 PM by

    You Have Questions…We Have Answers

    We have created a searchable Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) site designed to make finding and sharing information more efficient for our employees, external stakeholders and you, the general public.

    The searchable FAQs are available at and contain information across all program areas. You can search for information using common language (e.g., What is Open Government?) or browse by topic (e.g., Senior Executive Service). Answers to your questions are displayed immediately and a list of the Top10 Questions is also available for review. Many questions can be answered right away with FAQs. Why wait in line on the phone? Go online today. Ready, set, search!!!

    Posted 10:50 AM by

    On October 13, 2010, President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act into law. This Act requires all Federal agencies to write most documents in plain language and requires all new covered documents to be written in plain language beginning October 13th.

    As you know, plain language is communicating with your audience so they understand what you're saying the first time they read or hear it. It's worth remembering that language that is "plain" to one set of readers may not be plain to others. So keeping in mind who your audience is will help immeasurably.

    Written material is in plain language if your audience can easily:

    • Find what they need;
    • Understand what they find; and
    • Use what they find to meet their needs.

    What kind of documents should be written in plain language? Any document that (1) is necessary for obtaining any Federal Government benefit or service or filing taxes, (2) provides information about any Federal Government benefit or service, or (3) explains to the public how to comply with a requirement the Federal Government administers or enforces. This includes (whether in paper or electronic form) a letter, publication, form, notice, or instruction and does not include regulations.

    Want to learn more? Online plain language training is available from the National Institutes of Health at You don’t have to login, just click Browse to get started.

    If you have any questions, please visit our Plain Language site or feel free to leave us a comment here.

    IT is a critical component of OPM’s ability to supply the Federal Government with the most talented, highest performing workforce available.  We maintain important websites such as, administer benefits for millions of federal employees, and provide critical HR support for every federal agency.  Each of these tasks is information intensive, thus OPM’s implementation of the 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management.  My staff and I are working tirelessly to implement these important reforms.

    OPM has a unique role in the larger IT Reform agenda in our creation of an IT Program Management career path.  Over the past six months we have worked on a tight time frame to establish this new career track for our high-performing program managers.  We have published the classification title for IT program managers, researched the need for direct hire authority for IT program managers, and are in the process of developing an IT program manager competency model.  As CIO, I am extremely proud of the work that my team has accomplished in this initiative and feel that this new career track will have a dramatic affect on the performance of IT programs across the Federal Government for the foreseeable future.  

    A major goal of our agency is to move more processes to shared services or cloud platforms.  This centralization will lead to both cost savings and improved performance.  We have already begun to move the majority of our web services, including, to cloud-based platforms.  We are also moving our document management to the cloud, which will allow OPM employees to share information much more efficiently.  We expect that these changes alone will save the agency over $200k per year.  This “Cloud First” philosophy is central to our department’s strategic plan for federal IT which includes our goal to reduce our Operations and Management expenditures by 10% per year over the next three years.

    We held our first departmental Tech Stat session on March 30th, where we evaluated our Health Claims Data Warehouse.  We identified several key management and communications issues that needed to be addressed in order to ensure the system’s continued success.  We established a plan for improved governance of the program by establishing stronger communication channels between key stakeholders and with the Executive Steering Committee.  Further, we expect to avoid significant future costs as a result of these improvements.  As we go forward, the TechStat process will continue to be a vital component of our IT Management plan.

    As we continue to implementation the IT Reform plan, I am encouraged by the remarkable progress I see here at OPM and across the entire government.  This progress and the resulting best practices are both positive signs for the future of IT Reform.  While there are challenges ahead, the ambitious goals set forth both in the plan and by our agency will push us to achieve results as we work to recruit the next generation of talented, dynamic federal employees.

    Matthew E. Perry is the Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

    Earlier this year, President Obama outlined his plan to create a 21st-century regulatory system that is simpler and smarter and that protects the interests of the American people in a pragmatic and cost-effective way.  As a key part of that plan, he called for an unprecedented government-wide review of rules already on the books in order to remove those that are out-of-date, unnecessary, excessively burdensome, or in conflict with other rules. As a result of that review, agencies have identified initiatives with the potential to eliminate tens of millions of hours in reporting burdens, and billions of dollars in regulatory costs.

    Following the President's lead, OPM has adopted an aggressive plan to review its own regulations.  OPM's review process will build on our existing culture of transparency and outreach to stakeholders by publishing a notice on March 1 of each year that solicits recommendations from the public regarding which regulations it should subject to review.   Then, no later than September 1 of each year, OPM will publish on its Open OPM website its list of priorities for retrospective review for the next fiscal year. OPM will identify no fewer than four  regulations for retrospective review each year.  If, as a result of its review, OPM decides to revise or eliminate any regulations, it will explain the basis for its decision in the Federal Register notice proposing the revision or elimination of the regulation.

    In order to jump start the review process, OPM is also announcing today its plan to examine several major regulations over the next year. As discussed in our plan, this review will help provide for a more transparent and refined calculation of the reimbursement rates for HMOs participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program; take advantage of new technology to improve and streamline retirement processing and customer service; reduce burdensome and ineffective reporting by agencies on human resources systems and metrics; and to create a more streamlined, transparent process for bringing interns into the Federal Government.

    OPM is now seeking comment on its preliminary plan.  The public is encouraged to submit comment through our website by filling out the form below.  To maximize the benefits of public input, comments that are submitted will be viewable by other members of the public (after any personal identifying information is removed).

    The President's new initiative for ongoing retrospective review of agency regulations presents an exciting opportunity for OPM and its stakeholders.  By regularizing the process of such review, and providing for stakeholder input, we expect to reap increased efficiencies, cost savings, and greater flexibilities.  I hope you will join OPM in this process, by commenting on our preliminary plan and participating actively in our annual call for recommendations of regulatory provisions for review.

    View OPM's Preliminary Plan on Agency Review of Regulations PDF file [102 KB]

    For more information, please visit The White House Regulation Reform website.

    Director John Berry proclaimed in his letter introducing OPM’s Open Government Plan: “We are very excited about engaging further with our stakeholders – employees, unions, the public, academia, other agencies, and non-profit organizations – to create a more transparent, participatory, and collaborative Government.”

    It has been one year since the White House released the Open Government Directive, part of a larger initiative to improve Government services through transparency, public participation and collaborations. Through OPM’s Open Government Plan, we have honored the commitment to our stakeholders by making more information available to and usable by the public. We are engaging OPM employees, along with external stakeholders, in more collaborative and transparent ways to solve complex, agency-wide dilemmas through clearly defining the problem, generating creative ideas, and  recommending new solutions to the OPM Executive Board.

     Here are some of the highlights we have accomplished thus far:

    • OPM was ranked among the top-five agencies in’s first assessment of Open Government plans throughout the Executive Branch.
    • We received a Leading Practices Award from the White House for our Flagship initiative to bring knowledge management and collaborative technologies to OPM.
    • We formed a governance structure with representation from throughout OPM and from external stakeholders. Participants from field offices and the union have played vital roles as members of our six Open Government teams. This structure has allowed us to use an inductive approach and incorporate ideas from other agencies, academia, and non-profit institutions by working together across internal and external boundaries. In this way, we collaborate to make meaningful change at OPM.
    • In July the Open Government Team launched a centralized depository of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), which is a dynamic method to respond to stakeholder questions, while allowing our employees to post responses to the web in real time. This allows OPM to communicate our various program messages and even become proactive with our announcements to the public. The depository of questions and answers is, in essence, a topical dictionary of interesting mission-related facts. Users are required to search the data base, which has artificial intelligence functionality; it also allows email inquiries. If used properly, the depository’s responses will expand, giving our stakeholders an opportunity for better “self service” before requesting assistance with commonly asked questions. The site is located at
    • We instituted IdeaFactory in January. This is a crowd-sourcing tool created using open source code provided by Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This tool promotes the sharing of ideas to improve agency processes and saves money by listening to staff suggestions in a purposeful way. This tool leverages the power of inter-agency collaboration at its Contracting and Acquisition best, because the code can be shared federal government-wide sparing unnecessary start-up costs for sharing applications.
    • The Open Government team submitted a Communication and Collaboration plan to insure the conversation about openness principles and create opportunities for collaboration across the agency as well as to provide avenues for continued participation and collaboration with our stakeholders externally.
    • OPM hosted 75 guests in an Open Government summit sponsored by the Open Forum Foundation in mid February. The purpose of the event was to stimulate and document new thinking in the area of transparency and creating an open culture. The summit was structured as a Focus Forum; a collaborative event that fostered innovative thinking and solutions on the topic of openness.  OPM was  joined by other Federal agencies, academia, non-profit organizations and union membership to explore the benefits of taking ownership of transparency and ‘baking it’ into the work we do in our respective organizations, thereby creating a sustainable culture of openness. The summit provided an opportunity for participants to engage in collaborative discussions about Open Government best-practices, challenges, and innovations that span multiple agencies.  The collective knowledge gained from the discussions will be used to develop an inter-agency Guide to Owning Transparency, which will be made available for use by all agencies. This information will assist agencies in taking concrete steps toward developing strategies to enable transparency, as subscribed in the White House Open Government Directive issued December 8, 2009.
    • We have taken some major steps toward providing proactive disclosure of our Executive and Managerial point of contacts on the web using an organizational tree approach. Phase II enhancements will move the tool from an informational to a collaborative experience for our external stakeholders by using a topical integration of our organizations with our Searchable Frequently Asked Questions tool. This tool will field questions and provide contact information as needed.
    • Lastly, in collaboration with our union, OPM has focused on an initiative to establish an agency-wide learning and career center. The purpose of this center is to promote and value continuous learning and development agency-wide as well as to develop an open, knowledge creation and sharing culture. This cultural change is also fostered by the start of a Pilot Mentoring program in March with 78 participants. The agency-wide program is scheduled to begin in mid summer.

     We are moving forward with implementing the rest of OPM’s Open Government Plan by focusing on ways in which we can build a culture that truly values openness - collaboration, participation and transparency -  and learn how it can help us better do our jobs and fulfill our mission to recruit, retain, and honor a world-class workforce to serve the American people.

     Visit the Open OPM blog at for the latest Open Government news and events. 

    Sunshine Week is “a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.” OPM has taken the challenge of Open Government and committed itself to becoming a model of openness and transparency. Director John Berry noted in his letter introducing our Open Government Plan, at the United States Office of Personnel Management “We are very excited about engaging further with our stakeholders – employees, unions, the public, academia, other agencies, and non-profit organizations – to create a more transparent, participatory, and collaborative Government”.

    The notion of Openness is built in to our strategic plan and our organizational values, which link directly to our mission:  “Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People.” FY10 saw OPM make good progress in creating an environment of “openness”, by making improvements toward proactive disclosure, and effectively responding to FOIA requests.  You can read more in our 2010 Freedom of Information Act Report.


    Learn More

    If you would like to learn more about the OpenOPM initiative, visit

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