Weichert: Workforce issues stall IT modernization, data progress

employee data (kentoh/ 

Margaret Weichert, recently tapped as the acting head of the Office of Personnel Management, on Oct. 10 laid out her priorities for the workforce and the commercialization of federal data.

Weichert, who was confirmed by the Senate as deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, noted that the President's Management Agenda has three pillars: data, IT modernization and workforce reform. And workforce challenges, she said, are frequently a roadblock to progress on the other two pillars.

"Every time I asked, 'why can't we do x, y and z differently?' I was given some version of 'we don't have the right people to lead the change, we don't have the right skills to deal with that challenge, we can't get people in fast enough with the most modern perspectives on things," Weichert said at a Data Foundation event.

The three main priorities, or "gears," of the PMA "are interconnected," she said, "and the people gear is at the bottom because a lot of the time that's where we'd get stopped."

"We've made some progress on IT modernization, maybe we've made some progress on data, but we get stuck on this people stuff," she added.

Weichert also talked about her first day as OPM director.

"What I did tell the team yesterday is that I have two primary areas of focus," she said. Those are implementing the PMA and general management activity, which Weichert said entails using data to manage coming changes.

Weichert also provided an update on the GEAR center, the nongovernmental, public-private partnership aimed at addressing operational and future challenges facing government.

"I'm hoping to stand that up in 2019," she said. "We want to stand up a center outside of government that includes a place for… federal, state, local and tribal, academia and the private sector to come together and look at critical issues, and data commercialization is one of those issues that we've queued up as one of two topics that we're hoping the GEAR Center will focus on first."

And as OMB and appropriators work out concerns over the transparency of the Technology Modernization Fund process, Weichert said that, moving forward, she hopes agencies will use the central pot to fund data-based activities.

"I increasingly hope and believe we will see data projects actually going into the TMF in order to, essentially, invest in infrastructure that delivers some of those capabilities," she said.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter


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