OPM has said it has made what it called the “difficult” decision to halt work on its retirement systems modernization project, a long-running effort to bring retirement processing into the computer age.
The project has undergone several iterations and changes of direction in recent years, and last year OPM explicitly branded them a failure and said that rather than try to achieve aggressive end-to-end solutions, it instead would focus on smaller, more concentrated efforts on issues that were more readily identifiable and assessable.
Among the notable problems with RSM, as it was called, was the launch at one point of a website called RetirEZ, which was to be a one-stop service site integrated with the calculation of benefits. However, OPM launched that calculator despite repeated warnings from GAO that the calculator was inaccurate, and later took the site offline and suspended the contract. After that, OPM concentrated mainly on back-office type improvements, including digitizing paper employment records, vast numbers of which are kept in a converted mine in Pennsylvania.
However, in its most recent budget justification to Congress, OPM said it was abandoning even those efforts due to the government’s fiscal pressures.
Meanwhile, OPM said that problems continue with the quality of employee retirement applications submitted by employing agencies to OPM, an issue it has long cited as a main reason for delay in the processing of new retirements, which in some cases can take many months. In a sample of applications submitted in 2008, OPM found a third were inaccurate or incomplete; since then has been working with agencies to address those problems and to be more specific in identifying where errors are made, the report said.
OPM separately said that it has hired additional retirement application processors despite budgetary restrictions and that processing performance is improving.