OPM’s automated retirement system could take a hit

Spending on the Office of Personnel Management’s Retirement Systems Modernization project (RSM) would decline next year under the Bush administration’s budget proposal just as OPM is preparing to implement the first phase of the project.

The administration has requested $15.2 million for fiscal 2009, compared with the $26.9 million the program received in the current fiscal year.

RSM is designed to facilitate the processing of retirement claims. In comments about RSM, budget officials said the proposal includes funding “to maintain timely processing of retirement claims, administer insurance programs, and improve the speed and accuracy of federal retiree benefit payments.” After the automated system is launched, federal employees and retirees can also view their retirement information and manage their accounts online.

OPM officials expect to launch the first wave of employee records later this month. Last year, RSM finished creating digital images of the retirement folders of all 2.5 million active employees, converted data to electronic format for about half of those employees and began intensive testing of the system. Most employee records will be online in fiscal 2009, officials said.

However, in a recent report on RSM, the Government Accountability Office raised concerns about risks. GAO auditors said OPM needs to conduct more effective tests, resolve defects, and improve cost estimating and earned value reporting to ensure the system’s successful deployment.

In other fiscal 2009 budget requests for OPM, strategic human resources programs would receive $20 million, up from $19 million in 2008, and workforce leadership initiatives would receive $25 million, down from $28 million this year.

In addition, OPM’s e-government projects, including the Human Resources Management Line of Business initiative, would get $7 million, the same level of funding it received this year.

The administration’s overall request for OPM is $210.9 million, compared with the $225.6 million it received in fiscal 2008.

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