USAJobs.gov 3.0 reboot getting fail reviews from users

A day after the Office of Personnel Management launched its much-anticipated USAJobs.gov 3.0 federal job search website, the complaints were coming fast and furious on the program’s Facebook page.

“I remade my searches and got a blank,” wrote a USAJobs 3.0 user on Oct. 12. “I do believe the site is having technical difficulties,” wrote another user. “Obviously it comes and goes. Very frustrating!” summed up a third. Another graded the new website an “F.”

Linda Rix, co-chief executive of Avue Technologies, which operates job websites for several federal agencies, said system tests she performed on the USAJobs 3.0 website showed high failure rates: Out of 848 identical searches on Oct. 12, there were 601 application failures, which is a 71 percent failure rate. Out of 2,516 identical searches on Oct. 11, there were 412 failures, she said.


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“I think [OPM’s] problem is they may not have capacity in their data center,” Rix said in an interview. “They also may have buggy code. The most prevalent problem is application errors.”

Rix said the problems were affecting the entire system, not just a particular feature. "If it were me, I would take down the site," she said. Avue is not involved in the USAJobs site, which OPM has chosen to operate with its own employees rather than contractors.

OPM officials did not appear to be responding directly to the Facebook users on Oct. 12. They also did not respond to a request for comment on this article.

A day earlier, OPM officials unveiled the new version of USAJobs, which had been in development for over a year. The website previously was operated and hosted under a contract with Monster.com, but now is operating and hosted by OPM on its own servers. In recent weeks, officials previously had said the insourcing of USAJobs would make the website more secure, with more functionality and greater search capabilities.

“OPM is proud to announce the successful implementation of USAJobs 3.0,” the personnel agency announced on Oct. 11.

Judging by performance of the new website, however, the application errors and bugs apparently will need to be addressed before users can make full use of the new capabilities.

The problems also may go even much deeper, Rix suggested.

OPM’s remake of USAJobs.gov, removing it from Monster.com and developing and hosting the 3.0 version inhouse, may have been a seriously flawed decision, according to Rix, whose company runs job search websites for the Peace Corps, US Agency for International Development and US Forest Service, among others.

In addition to compromising USAJobs’ functionality, Rix claims the insourcing essentially was done for the wrong reasons and runs contrary to the White House’s Cloud-first guidance.

“What was driving [OPM’s decision] is control,” Rix said in an interview. “They want to get control so they can control pricing.” She was referring to the fees that OPM charges to federal agencies that utilize USAJobs.gov, which is nearly all agencies.

The fees are collected into OPM’s revolving fund, also known as its working capital fund. While federal agencies are not supposed to profit on their fee-for-service business lines, they are allowed to carry over and reinvest their working capital funds over multiple fiscal years. At OPM, while the agency’s budget is approximately $240 million, its working capital budget is about $1.7 billion.

“My basic issue is that the reason they in-sourced is so they could get a lock on the market so they can increase their fee-for-service business even more than they have,” Rix said. “You’ve got a federal entity using taxpayer dollars to replicate something available in the private sector that has been working for years.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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