Embracing change

Last year, Kay Coles James, director of the Office of Personnel Management, restructured the agency and redefined its mission to handle new challenges. Here are some of the items on her agenda for this year:

* Homeland security: "Of course, standing up the [Homeland Security Department] is our top priority. In the legislation, the secretary of the department and the director of OPM have to work in a collaborative way in order to stand up modern systems that will really benefit employees in that department. America is counting on us to do it well, to do it in a timely way and to provide state-of-the-art systems to attract America's best and brightest to protect the homeland."

* E-government: "Also a priority here for us is to continue our role as a leader in [e-government] initiatives across government. We are looking at the total federal employee and how we go about streamlining our processes, making them efficient, providing better service and saving taxpayer dollars."

* Pay for performance: "Both the private sector and those who deal with pay issues inside government are excited about the prospects. Federal employees themselves will tell you they don't believe we reward the best performers. [Now] it's longevity rather than performance that is rewarded."

* Federal hiring process: "If you talk to anyone in or outside government and you ask them, 'If you had the chance to fix one thing, what would it be?,' after you take care of the basics of homeland security and how we pay employees, they are going to tell you [to fix] the federal hiring process."

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