The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) identified four top management challenges for agency management in Fiscal Year 2021 – including an IT modernization challenge that the OIG indicated can be addressed through a “persuasive vision” and plan that agency IT leaders are gearing up to implement.

The OIG report identified the four management challenges in accordance with the Reports Consolidation Act of 2000 that requires the Inspector General to identify and report top management challenges annually. This year, the challenges were separated into four overarching categories:

  1. IT challenges;
  2. Shortfall in OPM’s funding;
  3. Financial integrity of OPM’s Trust Funds; and
  4. Government-wide challenges.

“Some of these challenges are due to external factors including, but not limited to, rapid technological advances, shifting demographics, various quality of life considerations, and national security threats that are prompting fundamental changes to Federal Government operations,” OIG said.

On the IT front, OIG noted that frequent turnover in OPM’s Office of the CIO (OCIO) and agency leadership ranks have led to challenges for the agency in developing and executing a strategic plan for modernizing its IT environment.

The good news, the OIG said, is that OPM’s current CIO, has articulated a compelling vision to modernize the agency’s IT, which in turn hinges on maintaining support from OPM leadership and getting proper funding over time.

The OIG said that vision involves a phased approach to implement modernization initiatives, beginning with modernizing and stabilizing core IT systems and processes and building an effective organizational structure within the OCIO.

“For the first time in many years, OPM is in a position where its [CIO] has combined a persuasive vision with a detailed plan to successfully see it through,” OIG said. “If the agency can achieve the phase one modernization goal, it will stabilize its critical IT functions and reduce the risk of compromising sensitive data.”

To achieve that phase one baseline, OPM will have to address the following critical areas:

  • Fully transition the legacy National Background Investigations Bureau systems to the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA);
  • Recruit staff needed for implementing a successful IT modernization program;
  • Reduce OPM’s IT environment complexity by promoting an enterprise-oriented mindset; and
  • Secure funding necessary to achieve phase one modernization goals.
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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.