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News Release

Thursday, July 22, 2004
Contact: Brendan LaCivita
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Deputy Director Dan Blair Testifies on Human Capital Management in the Federal Work Force

Says much progress has been made under leadership of OPM Director James

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Deputy Director Dan G. Blair recently testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia, on the impact lately enacted human capital flexibilities have had on federal agencies' abilities to address their human capital needs. Blair gave examples of the efforts made by OPM Director Kay Coles James to create a federal work force that embodies the vision laid out by President George W. Bush.

"Under President George W. Bush's Management Agenda (PMA), OPM is responsible for driving the strategic management of human capital by advising federal departments and agencies on human resources flexibilities and holding them accountable for their human capital management practices," stated Blair. "President Bush, through his management agenda, has given OPM direction and clear authority in helping agencies meet their human capital goals, and because of Director James' leadership, we are seeing effective results now."

Blair began his testimony by speaking of the passage in 2002 of the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Act, which made human capital management a strategic issue critical to agency mission accomplishment, and ensures coordination and cooperation among agency CHCOs. The CHCO Act, which established a governmentwide CHCO Council chaired by the director of OPM, created a cultural change in the management of people working in the federal government.

"Agencies are focused, like never before, on strategically managing the civil servants in their work forces...," Blair stated. "The CHCO Council adds value to the public policy dialogue on the future of America's civil service."

Since last June, the CHCO Council has met seven times, adopted a charter, established an executive committee to help steer the council and five initial subcommittees to address important governmentwide human capital issues (Subcommittee on Leadership Development and Succession Planning, Subcommittee on Performance Management, Subcommittee on Employee Conduct and Poor Performers, Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, and the Subcommittee on the Hiring Process), conducted a two-day retreat at OPM's Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia, and drafted a tactical plan for the current fiscal year. The council also created an academy as a forum for council members to learn from one another and share best practices. The academy, which meets on a monthly basis, has considered such topics as current work force flexibilities in title 5, United States Code, human resources competitive sourcing, and compensation and hiring reform.

Blair also mentioned direct-hire authority and category rating -- the hiring authorities Congress granted agencies to use within the parameters established by OPM in reforming the federal hiring process.

Direct hire authority permits agencies to hire qualified employees "on-the-spot," without putting them through a formal rating and ranking process. It gives agencies a vital new option for quickly hiring hard-to-fill and mission-critical occupations.

Agencies also received authority to utilize a streamlined approach to rating and ranking applicants for federal jobs. This new approach, called category rating, is the first significant change in the process for evaluating federal job applicants in over 50 years. It is a procedure that retains veterans' preference and allows agencies to place candidates in broad quality groupings, rather than assigning candidates actual numerical ratings. It may also give the selecting official more candidates from whom to select, rather than limiting them to just the top three, as is the case with the traditional system.

"The bottom line is the quality of applicants can be maintained while preserving veterans' preference and potentially expanding the pool of job applicants with either new hiring flexibility," stated Blair.

To inform agencies of the new hiring flexibilities, OPM has provided five training sessions for agency human resources professionals governmentwide. At the last training session on June 29, over 230 human resources professionals attended, prompting OPM to host another session in early August. OPM also is planning to conduct hiring flexibility training sessions in coordination with the Federal Executive Boards.

Blair also spoke of OPM's two governmentwide hiring models -- the 30-day hiring model for members of the Senior Executive Service (SES), and the 45-day hiring model for rank and file positions. We already are seeing evidence that agencies are effectively utilizing the 30-day hiring model as part of their SES recruitment strategies. Additionally, OPM already has implemented the 45-day model internally in order to spur results and internal hiring practices' changes, and senior OPM officials have been meeting with agency chief human capital officers about the model and how it is implemented across government.

In addition to the new hiring authorities and the streamlined hiring model, OPM has initiated an aggressive strategy to reform the hiring process through the use of its USAJOBS website,, and major efforts to reach out to veterans, students, and the general public through a number of initiatives including eleven nationwide recruitment fairs, at which over 55,000 individuals attended.

"More remains to be done," Blair stated. "However, any changes will require close collaboration within the Administration and with congressional leaders, employees, veterans' service organizations, union representatives, managers, and other key stakeholders. Director James and I are committed to such a process."

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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.

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