OPM chief to leave

Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James became the latest Bush administration official to announce her resignation, effective Jan. 31.

During her tenure, OPM officials began studying and implementing major changes to a 50-year-old civil service system. She was also an integral part of the effort to merge 22 departments and agencies into the Homeland Security Department.

"I have been privileged to lead the American civil service during a period of great change, especially after the horrific events of Sept. 11," 2001, she said. "Public service is a noble profession and our federal employees are true patriots charged with defending our homeland and servicing the taxpayer, often in the face of great personal sacrifice and danger."

James' tenure was also noted by Bush administration efforts to study a new kind of pay system for federal workers in which employees would get raises based on performance, not seniority. DHS and Defense Department officials are studying the system, known as pay banding, for civilian workers.

She also was at the head of efforts to implement several new federal benefit programs including health savings accounts and better and faster security background checks for potential employees.

James did not say what her next step would be. However, she said, "I intend to work equally hard and will look for opportunities that allow me to maintain a voice in national policy discussions while participating in private and nonprofit solutions designed to improve the lives of our fellow citizens and further meaningful reforms."

In a statement, Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, called James "a forthright and honest public servant who showed respect for federal employees, their unions and the work they do."

She added: "While we did not always agree, it was a pleasure to work with her."

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