The Office of Personnel Management works to recruit and retain more than 2.7 million federal workers. They also cover 2.5 million retirees and annuitants. Director Katherine Archuleta was sworn in on November 4th, 2013. She's the 10th director of OPM and the first Latina to head the agency.
In her first sit-down TV interview as OPM director, Archuleta discussed management with Government Matters.
Morris: In May, you testified before a Senate subcommittee about the state of federal I.T. Your written testimony suggests the government needs to be more flexible -- with regards to pay and benefits -- in order to recruit and retain cyber personnel. What do you suggest? Is it time to reform the GS-system?
Archuleta: It's very interesting Morris that you ask me that question. I was just testifying on the Hill yesterday (Tuesday). What we all agree with is that the 65-year old civil service system needs to be looked at. But we need to look at it as a whole. You can't take a look at one piece of it. You can't take a look at just pay, or performance assessment, or at classification. We need to take a look at the whole of the merit system. That is why the President -- since his budget submission in 2012 -- has suggested the formation of a commission that would include administration, congressional members, labor, academics and experts in the field who would have us take a look at this very precious system that protects equal pay for equal work. But also, how do we update it to make sure that it operates in the 21st Century?
Morris: Congress approved a "phased retirement" law two years ago. It would allow retirement-eligible feds to work part time while training their successors. Your office has yet to act, and lawmakers - of both parties - want answers. What's taking so long?
Archuleta: We're crossing the T's and dotting the I's on that. We hope to have it all complete by the end of the summer.
Morris: Buyouts are a big trend line in government. The TSA just announced one. Will there be fewer people working in government one year from today?
Archuleta: I think we know from retirement statistics that in about three years we're going to lose a large portion of our federal workforce. We need to think right now about: What are the types of things that we can do to keep experience in our workforce (like phased retirement)? Or, how do we generate new interest in government (recruiting)? And how do we make sure that the employees that we do have are trained and can rise in their professional development? All of those things have to be strategies that any employer -- especially the largest employer in the country -- has to use to maintain a strong workforce.
Morris: Employee satisfaction and engagement are two of your top priorities. Considering the recent climate in Washington, has the deck been stacked against you?
Archuleta: No, not at all. I look to our employees. They are discouraged by furloughs, budget cuts, and sequestration. But what I know about them -- because I talk to them every day, literally thousands of people in the time that I've been here, I joined about eight months ago as you know -- is that their dedication never wavers. When you take a look at the EVS data, over two-thirds of our employees say that. Are they engaged in what they do? Do they come to work encouraged by the work that they do? And they answer, 'Yes.' It is true that these harsh criticisms -- and sometimes unfair criticisms -- take a toll on our government employees when they're painted with one broad brush that all employees are alike. That's simply not true. Literally, millions of people come to work every day and do a great job for the American public.
Morris: Your office also manages the Combined Federal Campaign. Pledges were down 19-percent this year. Are you concerned?
Archuleta: I know that it reflects hard times. I think it reflects what I mentioned earlier -- in terms of budget cuts and the impact on paychecks for our federal employees. But with the CFC changes that have been made recently, I'm hopeful that being able to contribute more directly online will help raise those numbers.
Morris: Katherine, you are the first Latina to head OPM. A diverse workforce one of your top priorities. How do you make that a reality?
Archuleta: It really is both strategy and presence. The issue of diversity and inclusion is high on the President's list as well, and I join him in saying that the American workforce must look like the America that we serve. The offices of OPM, we're focused right now on how we can increase the number of under-represented groups throughout government. We're working very closely with groups like the CHICO Council, and other groups, that are operational within government to make sure that this important issue remains front and center as we face any number of issues that we need to deal with in government.
Morris: OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, thanks.
Archuleta: Thank you Morris, my pleasure.