The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is in urgent need of modernization – one that includes reorganization, funding, and an overhaul of the agency’s current mission and staff, according to a recent report from the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA).

The 114-page report is the result of a year-long study of OPM, conducted by a five-member panel of NAPA fellows. The long-awaited report comes after the Trump administration’s proposal in June 2018 to shift government functions performed by OPM to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA).

Instead, the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act directed OPM to work with NAPA for a one-year contract to conduct this independent study. The report “did not find that the problems or challenges identified in the proposal would be resolved by transferring OPM functions to OMB and GSA.”

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“Our independent panel report provides an opportunity for a fresh look at changes OPM can make to become the government-wide leader it was always meant to be,” Terry Gerton, president and CEO of NAPA, said in a press release. “The panel’s recommendations provide a roadmap for this important transformation of OPM and Federal human capital management – and in turn, affords a path for building the workforce of the 21st century.”

The report offered 23 recommendations that are designed to achieve four main outcomes:

  • “Human capital is recognized and supported as a strategic priority across government by the administration, the Congress, and Federal agencies.
  • OPM’s role is reaffirmed and strengthened as the leader for strategic human capital management government-wide.
  • OPM’s approach to human capital management evolves from predominantly compliance-oriented to customer-focused, value-added, data-driven, and forward-looking, encouraging innovation and sharing of best practices.
  • OPM’s technology platforms are modernized, affording secure and efficient access to human capital data and systems supporting government-wide human capital management.”

“For too long, OPM has been unable to achieve its potential of infusing data and evidence into short- and long-term workforce planning,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said in a press release. “This NAPA study offers a blueprint to rebuild OPM and fortify merit system principles and expertise throughout government so no future administration can attack its foundations.”

“Timing is fortuitous. With a new administration and Congress, the report provides an opportunity for a fresh look at changes OPM can make to become both the organization and the government-wide leader it was always meant to be,” Gerton said in the report. “The new administration cannot accomplish its ambitious agenda without an effective workforce – an effective OPM is absolutely critical to this undertaking.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.