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News Release

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Contact: Edmund Byrnes
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Director Kay Coles James Addresses the Volcker Commission

Calls Merit System Principles, Prohibited Personnel Practices and veterans' preference as basis for current and future changes

Washington, D.C. - Speaking to the Volcker Commission's Academy Conference, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James praised the collaborative process used in the development of a proposed personnel system at the Department of Homeland Security and stated the same approach should be used in the future to protect merit system principles.

James reiterated the Bush Administration's commitment to America's veterans who wish to serve their country as civil servants after they leave the military service.

Present at the conference were Leon Panetta of the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy; Fred Thompson, former Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee; Dr. David Chu, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and Chief Human Capital Officer with the Department of Defense; and Paul Volcker, Chairman of the National Commission on the Public Service.

"We are making progress, and we will continue in the future to protect the merit system and guard against prohibited personnel practices,"said James. "And we are making a difference for America's servicemen and servicewomen who have proudly served our nation. The federal civil service continues to be the leading employer of veterans across the country, and I am honored to commit to them our efforts to employ them and to use their skills and to benefit from their dedication to our democracy."

The Director added that protecting the merit system of the civil service is a bipartisan "core value."

OPM data for fiscal year 2002 show that veterans comprised 26 percent of all full-time, permanent new-hires and that the number of 30 percent or more disabled veterans increased by 2,048. Additionally, the Bush Administration's commitment to our service personnel helped 9,158 veterans gain federal employment using the authority under the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act, which allows veterans to compete for positions advertised under merit promotion regulations.

James also discussed the "real" need for results. "The word which drives all we do in this Administration is the charge we received from President Bush on day one: 'Results.' I see results every day. Our team at OPM is focused on results, now, today, this meeting, this memo. We are producing results for the American taxpayer. And the successes we are achieving today will insure that the government of tomorrow is more efficient, more flexible and better at serving the American people."

Just a few of the initiatives OPM has been involved with include: the new Chief Human Capital Officers Council to provide leadership and guidance to agencies in the use of governmentwide human resources management flexibilities; the strategic management of the government's human capital; the stand-up of the Department of Homeland Security, including the intensive effort of combining the cultures and human resources service of 22 different agencies involved the dedication of the best of the best at the new department; and, the continued improvement of the hiring process.

James also mentioned Colleen Kelly, President of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), and the positive working relationship she has maintained, along with Secretary Tom Ridge, during the development of the Department of Homeland Security personnel system. This relationship with Kelly and NTEU is an example of a positive collaborative relationship.

Summing up her faith in federal service and where it is going, James said: "Our civil service system and the sytem of merit have withstood the tests of war and peace, assassination and impeachment, terrorist attack and even electoral impasse. In each and every trial, the federal civil service system has remained rock steady. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored to work every day with those resourceful and brave Americans who constitute the federal workforce. With their dedication and sacrifice the agenda ahead for America is secure and our future is filled with hope, freedom and peace."

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OPM leads and serves the Federal Government in enterprise human resources management by delivering policies and services to achieve a trusted, effective civilian workforce. By Empowering Excellence in Government through Great People, we provide leadership and support to U.S. agencies on issues including human resources policy and oversight, background investigations, federal employee benefits, retirement services, guidance on labor-management relations, and programs to improve workforce performance. For more information, visit or follow OPM on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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