The secret effort to fix USAJobs

While the Office of Personnel Management has been the agency in charge of the USAJobs website debacle, it turns out that Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel has been leading an IT fix-it team behind the scenes.

VanRoekel formed an “IT SWAT Team” of experts from multiple federal departments, which has been evaluating USAJobs and helping to diagnose site operation problems and find solutions in recent days, John Berry, OPM director, disclosed at a congressional hearing on Nov. 15.

The SWAT team “conducted a preliminary analysis of the situation with USAJOBS 3.0, evaluated the operational landscape, and prepared a short and long term roadmap to resolving any issues with the system,” Berry told the House Oversight Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Federal Labor Policy.

Related stories:

USAJobs on verge of becoming a political issue

USAJobs has turned a corner, OPM says

The “Office of Management and Budget has been our partner and advisor on USAJOBS 3.0 along the way, and I am fully committed to working with this SWAT team and look forward to reviewing and implementing its recommendations,” Berry said in his testimony.

VanRoekel’s and OMB’s involvement had not been discussed publicly until now, despite a public request from a senator urging VanRoekel to get involved. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., made the request on Oct. 27 asking VanRoekel to step in to resolve the ongoing USAJobs crisis.

OPM launched the 3.0 version of USAJobs on Oct. 11 on its own servers for the first time, after an 18-month development effort. Previously it had been hosted by under a contract.

Users immediately began experiencing problems, and about 40,000 Help Desk requests were submitted in the first three weeks of operation. Since the launch, OPM officials have been addressing the operating problems, and on Nov. 3 OPM officials declared that new user complaints were trending downward.

Berry and OPM got a mixed review from the House subcommittee on their handling of the USAJobs 3.0 launch.

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., who chairs the subcommittee, said the botched website calls into question OPM’s ability to develop and operate complex IT systems.

“The launch of USAJOBS 3.0 has left many jobseekers frustrated, a sentiment at odds with OPM’s promise of doing it as well or better than the private sector company that the department took it over from,” Ross said.

“Since taking over the online employment site, OPM has increased its fee to federal agencies using the site for employment postings. Technical problems continue to plague the website. In other words, taxpayers are now paying for a system that doesn’t work, costs more and takes business away from the private sector. This raises questions about OPM’s decision to craft an in-house system given its poor history of information systems development,” Ross added.

On the other hand, Pasquale Tamburino Jr., deputy assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy at the Defense Department, testified that USAJobs, while initially balky, has been performing adequately in recent days.

Under the new system, DOD posted 6,500 new job announcements and received and processed more than 150,000 applications as of Nov. 3, Tamburino said.

“These statistics indicate to me we have not been hampered in our hiring efforts by the deployment of USAJOBS 3.0,” Tamburino said. “These numbers tell me that while we experienced some challenges at the start, DOD, in partnership with OPM, has confronted those challenges head-on, dealt with them quickly and effectively, and we are no longer experiencing significant system problems in DOD.”

Top hiring officials at Defense and other agencies, as members of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, unanimously had approved the decision for OPM to insource USAJobs two years ago. Supporters of the decision said it wouldj ensure federal protection of sensitive applicant information contained in USAJobs rather than have it commingled in a commercially-operated website.

About the Author

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

Nominate Today!

Nominations for the 2018 Federal 100 Awards are now being accepted, and are due by Dec. 23. 


Reader comments

Tue, May 15, 2012

USA JOBS sucks. I have applied to over 30 jobs and half always get cancelled or "they haven't started to hire in your area" yet. Veterans preference? I think not!

Sun, Nov 27, 2011

So, the announcement for the position I am currently occupying (in fact, rather than on paper)was approved in August. It has yet to be posted on USAJobs. Because of some funkiness with VRA hiring (still researching how a local CPAC can override U.S. Code on that one), I have not been direct-hired. So, the question arises, now that it's almost December and our servicing CPAC says the problem lies with USAJobs: when will the position be announced? How are we supposed to run a Directorate without the staff that we require? Should I just give up and go home (6000 miles)?

Wed, Nov 23, 2011

I am a new user of USjobs website and I have attempted several times to apply a position advertised on it with no success. Main problem, I was unable to access to it or if I do when I begin filling the forms at the middle of no where every thing disappears from the screen and no way to recover it. But my main concern to day is the UN and the international NGOs which I tried alot but never had any success and I have seen alot of very qualified Americans who are having the same problems I have been having it for a very long time. Both the UN and International NGOS just don't hire Americans for international positions but if they do, not alot. I have seen International NGOs hiring their nationals first. what is wrong with ours doing the same and when I say this, I have in mind like USAID who subcontracts other NGOs who never hires Americans.

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 John Massachusetts

I am very serious. As a government employee, I have no choice but to use USAJOBS to obtain a different position within my own organisation or even a different position on my own team. There have been times when I had to call HR to get the direct link because it would not show up on monster. And it could take longer than a position is open to get a simple password reset. When I was consulting in the private sector, monster was pretty useless to folks looking for their next gig. Pretty much every other job board was better. Again, I am thankful that USAJOBS was taken in-house.

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 TX

Simply put: Job Security!

Show All Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group