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Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Office of Personnel Management today hosted its second seminar of the week, bringing to 340 the number of federal hiring and program managers who have been trained over the past few days to identify bogus academic degrees presented by individuals to gain employment or promotion, and which have the potential to hinder public safety.
OPM Director Kay Coles James called this week's seminars "important meetings for frontline officials" whose decisions on personnel affect all Americans, as well as the legitimacy of the federal civil service. The first seminar was held on May 5 for more than 160 individuals. In all, 52 agencies sent employees to the two seminars.
Including seminars OPM held in August 2003, approximately 750 federal employees from more than 100 agencies have received training on identifying fraudulent academic credentials.
Prior to the May 5 seminar, James said: "Following today's seminar, human resource professionals and program managers will be better prepared to identify the misrepresentation of academic credentials, specifically the presentation of bogus degrees issued through diploma mills by those who, for self gain, would attempt to perpetrate a hoax or fraud upon the American public. Out of respect and admiration for our nation's honest and hard-working federal civil servants, the Bush Administration is committed to weeding-out those who would misrepresent themselves and their credentials in ways that put the nation's health and security in jeopardy."
James added: "OPM will continue to provide tools and guidance to agencies tackling this critical issue affecting the credibility of the civil service system."
Attendees' opinions of the seminars were positive, both for the information provided and further raising awareness of the issue.
"Until news of the past year, I was not keenly aware that the use of bogus degrees was a widespread problem," said Anthony Webber, a staffing and classification specialist with the Justice Department's Bureau of Prisons. "OPM is addressing the issue, and my awareness is obviously heightened."
An HR specialist at a cabinet-level agency said OPM's seminars "are of value" and re-enforce the idea that misrepresentations "need to be caught in the early stages" of the résumé review process.
OPM has announced that personnel and security clearance forms used by job applicants and current employees will be revised to make clear the differences between credentials received from accredited versus non-accredited schools. The new forms will provide space to list education received from both types of institutions.
OPM hosted similar seminars last August following disclosure of an official who had obtained a number of degrees from an established diploma mill. The seminars included presentations by a former FBI agent and a leading expert on diploma mills.
In a memorandum issued in July 2003, James reminded agency heads of the need to report to OPM all actions taken against employees who use bogus degrees to misrepresent their credentials. James also cited the Guidance for Agencies Concerning Bogus Degree Claims, an OPM manual, as a source of assistance. Since the mid 1980s, OPM has worked with federal agencies and the law enforcement community to identify businesses and individuals who knowingly misrepresent their academic programs or credentials.
The following is a list of federal agencies and departments represented at one or more of this week's seminars:
Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.