OPM's IT again under fire

Congress is demanding the Office of Personnel Management explain how hundreds of semifinalists for a prestigious fellowship mistakenly received acceptance letters.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform noted in a March 1 letter to OPM head John Berry that the erroneously-sent letter to 300 applicants wasn’t the only snafu with the Presidential Management Fellowship Program.

In November 2011, OPM sent out blank emails that didn’t say whether PMF applicants had qualified for the in-person assessment. In the previous month, applicants weren’t able to access the online assessment.

These mishaps “threaten the [program’s] prestige and the government’s ability to recruit future fellows,” wrote committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy. Moreover, the latest errors “caused real harm to applicants – some even made plans to attend the PMF Job Fair in Washington, D.C,” the letter stated.

The committee also cited concerns that the snafus point to larger IT failures within OPM, including the USAJobs.gov debacle in which the government's new job search system, developed in-house, sputtered for weeks after its launch with various errors and failures.

Launched in 1977, the two-year fellowship program strives to give graduate students development opportunities in the federal government. Roughly 500 graduates are selected every year as PMF fellows

OPM has now been asked to submit information on how the issues may have affected applicants’ ability to apply for the program and what steps the agency took to solve the problem. The committee also requested OPM to lay out a timeline for any changes to the program, as well as submit a list of any complains it has received about the program.


About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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Reader comments

Mon, Aug 20, 2012 John Denver

How can the government fix itself? NOT with its busted internal control systems for sure. Folks that have grown up in the gov don't know how high performance business systems can or should work. Bring in outside talent at the Executive and upper management levels and watch how fast the transformation takes place! Of course this would entail real change, whichs seems to not be a real goal, at least not until the decision makers safely retire...

Thu, Jul 12, 2012

I worked at OPM and the problem is accountability at the executive and management level. How an agency, which had one of the longest tenured CIOs in the fed gov and yet they had sustained IT ineptness during that time without accountability is shameful.

Fri, Jun 1, 2012 Don Chiarella Maryland

I worked at OPM Retirements Division on their mainframe back in 1989. They had a good staff. But i have had problems with USAJOBS. I think they have overlooked many IT problems and stuck to an old mainframe model which has hurt them. They did not modernize like other agencies.

Wed, Mar 7, 2012 Andy G

Instead of wasting time figuring out the impact of what has already happened, Congress needs to step in a fund an IT solution for all of OPM from hiring through tracking current feds to retirement calculation and data. Failure to do so is costing the government ten times what it would cost to fix it. Too simple I guess?

Wed, Mar 7, 2012 Jim

None of the OPM IT is up to snuff and it costs taxpayers a fortune. Projected retirees have no idea what their final retirement income will be because OPM cannot provide the calculations. In this day and age it's an embarrassment. Besides, did OPM do anything at all? Or haven't they contracted out this entire function?

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