A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) personnel mobility program – which allows for temporary assignments of Federal and non-Federal employees to come in and quickly fill skill gaps – needs more complete data for the program to realize its full potential.

On the upside, the report says the program offers a lot of advantages including allowing Federal agencies to quickly fill skill gaps; temporary and flexible time commitments; and relative administrative ease and cost-efficiency.

But GAO said the program is used infrequently and could use more guidance.

“OPM does not have complete and accurate data needed to track mobility program use. Thus, OPM does not know how often the program is being used across the Federal government,” the report states.

“Without a process to obtain complete and accurate data, OPM does not have the information needed to reliably inform its strategic decisions to oversee, provide guidance, promote, or more generally understand how Federal agencies are using the mobility program to meet their mission and address critical skills gaps,” the report continues.

For the report, GAO examined the program’s usage at four Federal agencies: the Departments of Defense and Energy, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The report found that those agencies were able to use the program to bring in top scientists and researchers under the Federal umbrella and have them take the technical lead on some complex projects.

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OPM disagreed with GAO’s assessment that it needed more data on the program, citing its relatively infrequent use. OPM currently has the respective agencies handle data for the program – as well as day-to-day oversight of the program – and input it into OPM’s Enterprise Human Resources Integration (EHRI) system.

However, GAO said it stands by its recommendation and, by comparing data provided by the examined agencies with the data contained in the EHRI, found that the EHRI does not “contain accurate or complete data for non-federal participants.”

Additionally, GAO recommended that OPM provide updated written guidance on how non-Federal participants in the program would act in supervisory roles over Federal employees and clarify what that entails. OPM agreed with that recommendation.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.