Issue Briefs

OPM has described its goals and priorities, and how it hopes to achieve them, for the next year as part of a budget justification document sent to Congress. Following is a summary.

The following Agency Priority Goals are measurable commitments to deliver specific results for the American people. The goals represent priorities for both the Administration and OPM. These goals are relevant to the public, are aligned to the agencies’ key mission areas, and will produce significant results.

OPM Priority Goals for FY 2012 and FY 2013

1. Ensure high quality Federal employees. By September 30, 2013, increase Federal manager satisfaction with applicant quality (as an indicator of hiring quality) from 7.7 to 8.3 on a scale of 1 to 10, while continually improving timeliness, applicant satisfaction, and other hiring process efficiency and quality measures.

2. Maintain speed of national security background investigations. Through September 30, 2013, maintain a 40 day or less average completion time for the fastest 90 percent of initial national security investigations.

3. Reduce Federal retirement processing time. By July 31, 2013, Retirement Services will have eliminated its case backlog so that 90 percent of all claims will be adjudicated within 60 days.

4. Increase health insurance choices for Americans. By October 1, 2013, expand competition within health insurance markets by ensuring participation of at least two Multi-State health plans in Affordable Insurance Exchanges.

5. Improve performance culture in the 5 GEAR pilot agencies to inform the development of government-wide policies. By September 30, 2013, employee responses to the annual Employee Viewpoint Survey in each of 5 agencies participating in a performance culture pilot project will increase by 5 percent or greater on the results-oriented culture index and the conditions for employee engagement index, using 2011 survey results as the baseline.

Per the GPRA Modernization Act, 31 U.S.C. 1115(b)(10), requirement to address Federal Goals in the agency Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan, please refer to for information on Federal Priority Goals and the agency’s contributions to those goals, where applicable.

The 2013 Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings (CCS) Volume of the President’s Budget identifies the lower-priority program activities under the GPRA Modernization Act, 31 U.S.C. 1115(b)(10). The public can access the volume at:

Ensure High Quality Federal Employees


President Obama’s Memorandum of May 11, 2010, Improving the Federal Recruitment and Hiring Process, outlined Phase I of the Administration’s comprehensive initiative to address major, long-standing impediments to recruit and hire the best and the brightest into the Federal civilian workforce. OPM is spearheading the Government-wide initiative to reform recruiting, hiring and retention policies and procedures. This initiative will encompass multiple years and require sweeping changes to streamline and improve the hiring process.

OPM will continue to assist agencies to find, hire, and retain the best talent possible for the Federal government. As the human resources management agency for the Government, OPM is responsible for ensuring the Federal hiring process is merit based and protects veterans’ preference. However, inherent in this leadership role, OPM is also responsible for bringing forth new ideas and efficiencies to the Government’s hiring system and monitoring and evaluating their effectiveness.

Implementation Strategy

Agencies have already taken significant strides to map their current hiring processes, identify barriers, and put in place action plans to streamline and improve their processes. Building on these efforts, OPM will:

• Initiate a vigorous Government-wide recruiting effort that makes it easier for Americans to apply for Federal jobs while also raising the bar on candidate quality

• Charge agency managers and supervisors to assume a greater leadership role in the planning, recruitment, and selection of employees, with human resource offices to provide collaborative/consultant support for these important efforts

• Establish a regular process to monitor agency progress to improve hiring timeliness and quality as well as applicant and manager satisfaction with the hiring process and manager satisfaction with applicant quality

• Develop high-quality assessment tools and guide agency implementation

• Enhance USAJOBS (the United States government’s one-stop clearinghouse for civil service job opportunities with Federal agencies) to support greater business analytics and decision-making

Maintain Speed of Security Background Investigations


Over the last few years, the Federal government has made critical advances in reforming the security clearance process. While there is still work to be done, individuals seeking to work for the Federal government now face a substantially different clearance experience than they did just a few years ago. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA), signed into law in 2004, challenged the Federal government to address longstanding coordination problems that unnecessarily affected the timeliness and quality of security clearances. As a result of actions taken to meet the objectives of IRTPA, the speed of the average security clearance has increased dramatically. IRTPA required all agencies to complete 90 percent of their security clearances in an average of 60 days, which includes 40 days to complete the investigation (generally OPM’s responsibility) and 20 days to adjudicate the investigation (responsibility of employing agency such as DoD). At the time IRTPA was enacted, the Government-wide average was 205 days for both investigation and adjudication. Currently, 90 percent of the government’s clearances are completed within the IRTPA-required timeframe of 60 days. For OPM, that meant completing 561,108 security clearance background investigations in 2011 in an average of 40 days.

OPM will implement a number of quality and automation initiatives while maintaining IRTPA’s overarching timeliness objectives and while sustaining our commitment to keep product prices in check. OPM will deliver tiered investigative products satisfying reform goals. OPM will continue modernization of information technology infrastructures to support timeliness and reform objectives, and will expand internal and external investigative and adjudicative training to satisfy reciprocity and reform requirements. OPM will work with Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) staff to develop enhanced, sustainable performance measures as we move through full implementation of security and suitability investigation process reforms.

Implementation Strategy

OPM remains committed to supporting the Joint Reform Effort initiatives and to deliver a “substantially operational” end-to-end reformed vetting process. The improved process will include the following developments and enhancements:

• Migrate the Clearance Verification System to Central Verification System to reflect the system’s expanded role in promoting reciprocity throughout the Federal Government

• Revise the e-QIP (electronic employee questionnaire for security clearance) to enhance validation and increase accuracy

• Implement a revised SF-86 (hard copy employee questionnaire for security clearance) form to gather more information sooner in the process

• Pilot automated record checks with select DoD population, and expansion of OPM’s suite of automated records checks

• Enhance electronic communications between OPM and agencies for cases such as investigative issue coding to optimize eAdjudication (the agency decision to grant an individual clearance), and continue to make eDelivery (the file is provided in extensible mark-up language and more readable on the internet than individual electronic files in various text formats) of investigative files available to agencies

• Expand the availability of an enhanced subject interview (informed by the revised SF-86 form) to target investigative resources on issue resolution

• Offer investigation with validated automated record checks that can be used as an annual assessment for individuals at the Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) level

Reduce Retirement Claims Processing Times


The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible for the administration of the Federal Retirement Program covering over 2.7 million active employees and 2.5 million annuitants. This responsibility is shared with agency partners who counsel their employees and administer the initial retirement application process, and submit the employee’s application, with all supporting documentation, to OPM’s Retirement Services. Because some of the information contained in retirement applications is payroll data this process is coordinated with Payroll Shared Service Centers (SSC), with whom agencies contract to provide payroll services. When the records submitted by the agencies and the SSCs are accurate and complete, processing is much faster. However, when data elements are missing, OPM must request the documentation necessary to process the request—a significant time and labor burden which contributes the OPM’s current backlog.

Implementation Strategy

In order to eliminate the backlog within 18 months so that all but the most complex retirement cases are processed within 60 days, OPM will focus on the following four pillars: People; Productivity and Process Improvement; Partnerships with Agencies; and Partial, Progressive IT Improvements:

• People — To add case processing capacity, we are hiring 40 new Legal Administrative Specialists (LAS), and to assist them we are hiring 20 temporary Customer Service Specialists (CSS). In addition, employees from other parts of Retirement Services and recent retirees are being brought back into claims production. These critical resources will focus effort on analyzing claims and adjudicating cases; thereby reducing case backlog.

• Productivity and Process Improvement — OPM will re-allocate people to form a case development team. These resources will focus effort on case assembly. This functional grouping of administrative resources will reduce overall processing time by fully developing cases (gathering essential employee data into case files) before they go to adjudication; this will free up critical LAS time from case assembly to case analysis and adjudication. The Customer Service Specialists will ensure that all cases that are sent to the Legal Administrative Specialists are complete and ready to be finalized. In addition, we are instituting a new process within our call center so that Legal Administrative Specialists are not hindered by calls that should be answered by others. Additionally, to help focus LAS resources on adjudicating cases, OPM will assign resources specifically to prepare cases for adjudication. OPM will streamline the administrative case review and audit process. Currently all cases are reviewed prior to the case being adjudicated and final annuity payment decision initiated. OPM will pilot test an enhanced review and audit process that will automatically approve cases for adjudication where the risk of error is minimal.

• Partnerships with Agencies — In December, Retirement Services briefed the CHCO Council and received buy in to work on improving agency submission of retirement applications via training sessions in February and June. By May 1, 2012 OPM will begin providing agency Chief Human Capital Officers real-time feedback to improve the completeness of incoming requests.

• Partial, Progressive IT Improvements — Rather than pursue a costly, long term, comprehensive IT solution, Retirement Services is looking to modernize our oldest systems and add partial automated improvements that will provide a benefit directly to the annuitants as quickly as possible.

Increase Enrollee Choice in Health Insurance


Under the ACA, OPM has been designated as the agency responsible for implementing and overseeing the Multi-State health plan options. In accordance with the Act, at least two Multi-State health plans will be offered on each Affordable Insurance Exchange with coverage effective January 2014. Multi-State plans will be one of several health insurance options that individuals and small employers will be able to choose from. In total Affordable Insurance Exchanges are expected to provide health insurance coverage for as many as 31 million Americans.

Implementation Strategy

OPM will focus on the following activities:

• Provide policy and analytical support for the Multi-State Plan Program

• Develop and issue regulations, policies, and guidance for the Multi-State Plan Program

• Develop and implement application and contract processes and documents for the Multi-State Plan Program

• Implement strategy to work with all States in the implementation of the program and to provide appropriate oversight of Multi-State Plan compliance with State laws as part of the contract management process

• Meet with stakeholders and other interested parties concerning issues related to implementing the Multi-State Plan Program

• Enter into contracts with at least two issuers to offer Multi-State Plans on Affordable Insurance Exchanges by September, 2013

Performance Culture


The Nation expects its Federal employees to be engaged and enabled to deliver and improve Government services. Federal employees work hard to make their agencies successful in carrying out their missions and strive to ensure that American taxpayers obtain the best from their Government. Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to reform and improve employee performance management in the Federal sector. Some attempts were based on a belief that employees were not being held accountable enough for their performance. Others determined that stronger employee performance management systems help employees realize their potential to do better work. However, the same problems and challenges persist today.

OPM will improve the federal performance management system by changing the culture of our agencies. By engaging front-line employees and agency managers through their labor unions and chief human capital officers, OPM developed ways to do a better job of selecting the right people to be supervisors, training them well, and then supporting them as they do their jobs. OPM developed approaches to improve the way employees and supervisors engage with each other and their work. We have developed ways to drive the importance of employee performance management up to the highest levels of our agencies by promoting accountability through Open Government and driving agencies’ top priorities.

OPM research indicates there is disconnect between the various functions responsible for organizational performance improvement and employee performance improvement. People work hard to improve agency performance and people work hard to improve employee performance; however, they often work these areas separately on parallel tracks. We think this disconnect is part of the reason that good employee performance management has been so elusive. Better alignment of the two functions will improve the implementation of each – agencies cannot improve performance without employees, and employees’ success and satisfaction depends on doing meaningful work tied to agency goals they view as important.

Implementation Strategy

OPM decided upon the Goals-Engagement-Accountability-Results (GEAR) model as a way to describe our philosophy. It is important to understand that the strategies are not sequential steps. Instead, they are a set of interrelated processes that will improve employee and organizational performance. They are based on the principle that every successful organization must have clear, aligned goals, engaged employees and supervisors, and accountability for every employee at every level. These elements combine to produce results. As agencies look to implement these recommendations, they may find that their existing goal alignment, employee engagement or accountability processes are incomplete or not in synch with one another. Some processes may appear effective in isolation but performance will be maximized only by improving the way all the gears are working together. Several elements of the GEAR model make this proposal unique and vastly different from previous Federal approaches to employee performance management. To create high-performing organizations that are aligned, accountable, and focused on results, the workgroup recommends agencies adopt the following goals.

• Articulate a High-Performance Culture – Require all agencies to identify and articulate their desired agency culture, and focus on employee engagement, development, performance, accountability, and how that culture fits in with Government-wide performance improvement.

• Align Employee Performance Management with Organizational Performance Management – (a) Drive ongoing alignment and cascading of established organizational performance objectives down through executive, manager, supervisor, and employee performance goals via an agency’s management board (vest authority with an existing or newly-established board) responsible for improvement of organizational and employee performance; and (b) Focus Performance Management Integration Boards (chaired by the PIO and CHCO) or equivalent