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Our Director Director's Blog

Welcome! We are committed to recruiting and retaining a world-class workforce for the American people.

Take a look at our blogs and share with others. Once you are on a particular blog page, you can give us the thumbs up. Connect with Acting Director Cobert on Twitter: @OPMDirector and Facebook.com/OPMDirector. Also, find us on other social media channels.

Multicolor background with red, purple, blue and white. Blue stripe at the top that says in white text: Federal Benefits Open Season is here! In the middle in large blue text it: Open Season 2016. Underneath in smaller text it says November 14,2016 - December 12, 2016. Icons are below with a tooth, eye, medical symbol, RX Stethoscope, heart and heartbeat symbol and an ear. OPM.GOV in red text at the bottom right corner.

Federal Benefits Open Season is here! Each year, we encourage all eligible employees and retirees to review their health, dental, vision, and dependent care needs and to make changes to or enroll in one of the available benefit programs. Open Season is the time to make choices you generally cannot make at any other time of the year.

Remember, all health, dental, or vision plans are not alike. Open Season is about exercising your ability to choose the benefits that best meet you and your family’s needs. You have between now and December 12 to make your benefit decisions. Here is a link to learn more about the Federal Benefits Open Season.

The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program

The FEHB Program covers over 8.2 million employees, retirees, and their families all across this country. For 2017, there will be 245 health plans available, with 15 of them available nationwide. And remember, all FEHB Plans now offer the opportunity to enroll in a Self Plus One enrollment type. This option allows you to cover yourself and one eligible family member who you designate, such as a spouse or child. If you did not take advantage of Self Plus One last year, you can do so for 2017. You can learn more about the FEHB Program on our dedicated Federal Benefits Open Season webpage.

Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP)

For 2017, FEDVIP offers 10 dental plans, six of which are nationwide plans. There are also four vision plans, all available nationwide. Coverage under a FEDVIP dental or vision plan is a great way to fill in the gaps of any health plan coverage you now have or to help pay for services that are not covered or available under your FEHB health plan. Some highlights: FEDVIP offers adult orthodontia. In-network Class A dental services, such as oral exams, prophylaxis and topical application of fluoride, are free. And, you can enroll in a self-only vision plan for less than $3 per pay period. As always, check plan brochures for specific coverage and compare plans. You can learn more about FEDVIP on the Federal Benefits Open Season webpage.

Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS)

While retirees are not eligible to enroll, most employees are eligible. You should check with your agency’s human resources office to verify your eligibility. For those who are eligible, FSAFEDS offers three accounts to choose from: a health care account; a limited expense health care account; and a dependent care account. Participation in these accounts allows you to lower your taxable income by setting aside pre-tax money to pay for eligible health, dental, vision, and dependent care expenses, such as co-pays, prescription drug costs, orthodontics, eyeglasses, and child/elder care. As a reminder, there is now a “carry over” provision under which enrollees can carry over up to $500 of unused Health Care FSA money into the following year. This means that you won’t have to forfeit money you don’t use by the end of the calendar year. To take advantage of the carry over of 2016 funds, you must re-enroll for 2017.

To learn more about FSAs, how much you can contribute, how much you can save, and changes for the 2017 benefit period, head over to our Federal Benefits Open Season webpage.

Don’t forget, you have until December 12 to review your needs and those of your family and to make the choices that are right for you.  


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

 


Picture of a gray suit, with a purple tie. On the suit is a blue circle sticker. It says 'Some Some Love'in white  and has the CFC logo at the top in dark blue.

Whether its animal welfare, art and music programs, support for veterans or the environment, cancer research or soup kitchens, the issues Federal employees care about are varied and diverse.  But Federal employees share a common goal:  they care about the world we live in, and want to make it a better place.  You should know that through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), you can contribute to your favorite cause that has special meaning for you and/or your family.

You and nearly 4 million of your Federal civilian, postal, and military colleagues continue to make the CFC the largest and most successful workplace philanthropic giving programs in the world.  In 2015, Federal employees donated nearly $178 million through the CFC to charitable causes in their local communities, throughout the nation, and around the world.  In fact, since the program began, more than $8 billion has been contributed by Federal employees to help those in need.

The reasons for you to give through the CFC are simple:

Choice – Participation in the CFC is voluntary and easy to do.  You can choose from a number of giving methods:  one-time or recurring; cash, check, credit card, or payroll deduction; paper pledge form or online pledge.  The CFC’s online database also lets you search more than 19,000 charities based on your interests – with no geographic restrictions – to help you identify organizations you’d like to support.

Confidence – You can be confident that the organization you donate to meets strict accountability and oversight standards. Nonprofit organizations apply annually to be included in the CFC’s list of charitable organizations, ensuring their continued adherence to CFC’s public accountability standards.  Also, local CFC efforts are audited annually and are overseen by a committee of Federal employees to ensure the CFC protects the interests of federal employees.

Convenience - The most convenient giving method is the most popular.  With a simple payroll deduction, most donors realize they can give more to their favorite charities by spreading their gifts out over time.  Let your payroll office do the work of sending a small portion of your pay to the causes that matter to you—a little bit every pay period.

Through the CFC, you can direct your gift to the causes you care about the most.  No matter how you choose to “show some love”, in the spirit of this year’s CFC theme, now is the time for you to make a difference.  Please give what you can to make a difference during the 2016 CFC season.  No gift is too small!

The 2016 CFC runs through December 15, 2016.  To make your pledge/donation or to request additional information, please contact your agency’s CFC coordinator, visit opm.gov/cfc or email cfc@opm.gov


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.



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