It's understandable that the Office of Personnel Management does not get much of the limelight that comes with working on e-government applications. Its projects simply do not have the pop and sizzle of electronic tax filing, for example, or the Geospatial One-Stop portal for accessing digital maps.
But few agencies are working on e-government projects of greater importance to the success of every other agency than OPM.
Earlier this month, OPM launched an electronic version of SF 86, the notoriously long and difficult application for obtaining security clearances. It also created a new form — SF 86C — that enables people with clearances to update their information electronically, rather than fill out the form again. The electronic forms will lighten the workload for both the applicants and OPM employees managing the investigations.
E-Clearance is part of a broader initiative to speed the issuing of security clearances for federal employees. Currently, clearances can take more than a year to complete. The problem has only worsened with the proliferation of homeland security initiatives, because so many more people are working on sensitive programs.
OPM is also working on an upgrade of USAJobs, its online recruitment portal, which will make it easier for people to learn about job opportunities in the federal government. Between the two applications, OPM could go a long way toward helping agencies find and deploy the talent they need.
But those are not the kinds of projects that get a lot of attention outside federal agencies. Because of that, OPM could lose out in the intense competition for e-government dollars. That would be a disservice to other agencies.
USAJobs is a prime example. The agency is moving ahead with the contract for the project, but does it have enough money to market the portal? Without the marketing lift, the portal's impact will be limited.
During this tight fiscal season, when every project is at risk of seeing its budget shrink, it's worth taking note of these initiatives, which otherwise might be lost in the noise.