OPM's IT again under fire

Congress is demanding the Office of Personnel Management explain how hundreds of semifinalists for a prestigious fellowship mistakenly received acceptance letters.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform noted in a March 1 letter to OPM head John Berry that the erroneously-sent letter to 300 applicants wasn’t the only snafu with the Presidential Management Fellowship Program.

In November 2011, OPM sent out blank emails that didn’t say whether PMF applicants had qualified for the in-person assessment. In the previous month, applicants weren’t able to access the online assessment.

These mishaps “threaten the [program’s] prestige and the government’s ability to recruit future fellows,” wrote committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy. Moreover, the latest errors “caused real harm to applicants – some even made plans to attend the PMF Job Fair in Washington, D.C,” the letter stated.

The committee also cited concerns that the snafus point to larger IT failures within OPM, including the USAJobs.gov debacle in which the government's new job search system, developed in-house, sputtered for weeks after its launch with various errors and failures.

Launched in 1977, the two-year fellowship program strives to give graduate students development opportunities in the federal government. Roughly 500 graduates are selected every year as PMF fellows

OPM has now been asked to submit information on how the issues may have affected applicants’ ability to apply for the program and what steps the agency took to solve the problem. The committee also requested OPM to lay out a timeline for any changes to the program, as well as submit a list of any complains it has received about the program.


About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.


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