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Time for change: Office of Personnel Management is updating its digital records system

Time is ticking as government officials work to update the aging digital records system at the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The goal of the update is to better track current, potential and retired employees in a single records system that includes multiple agencies and employee positions and make it easier for employees to transition between agencies.

OPM wants to create secure employee digital records (EDR) with near real-time updates containing all of an employee’s relevant data and is looking for an outside contractor who is up to the task. It sent out a request for information (RFI) on June 1 and indicated that it is not looking for a “generic technology solution” and that responses must directly demonstrate the ability of the technology solution to satisfy OPM’s objectives, assumptions and constraints.

An aging system
OPM’s current, cumbersome human resources information technology (HR IT) system is sorely out of date and lacks integration and standards across agencies.

“Many features and requirements of today’s federal personnel system were designed nearly 40 years ago for work and a workforce that was very different from the enormous diversity and complexity of today’s federal agencies, missions, and workforces,” according to OPM, which oversees the health care, insurance and retirement benefits and services for the federal government’s civilian workforce. It also promulgates regulations, policy and guidance covering all aspects of the employee lifecycle, from hiring to retirement.

It is currently difficult to manage the end-to-end employee data lifecycle “due to duplicative HR IT systems across agencies that are unable to interface and exchange data,” OPM says. “This is primarily due to inconsistencies and incompatibility of cross-government legacy HR IT data exchange capabilities, inconsistent application of existing data standards, unstructured data transformation, and data security and privacy concerns.”

Streamlining and securing
Updating the HR IT infrastructure will modernize basic administrative functions and create more efficient processes regarding recruitment and hiring, talent development, employee performance management, compensation and benefits and separation and retirement.

Updates will also allow employees to seamlessly transfer from one agency to another with paperless processing, which is one of OPM’s fiscal year 2018-2019 goals. The target date for implementation is September 30, 2019, according to OPM.

Improvements to the system will also make the system more secure and help prevent cybersecurity attacks like the one discovered in April 2015. OPM realized it had been hacked more than a year earlier in a data breach, resulting in the theft of what was originally thought to be approximately four million personnel records. By July 2015, the estimate of stolen records increased to 21.5 million, including those of current government personnel and people who had undergone background checks.

OPM is not the only agency modernizing its systems. In May, the General Services Administration in partnership with the Office of Management and Budget released its own RFI seeking a vendor to modernize its payroll and work schedule and leave management system.

The move to modernize federal IT systems is, in part, in response to the President’s Management Agenda, released March 20. The agenda calls for “key drivers of reform” across federal agencies that include updating information technology; improving accountability and transparency by creating updated data strategies and infrastructure; and retooling the workforce for the 21st Century.


With more than two decades of experience working in the federal government, including extensive experience as a senior attorney and member of the Senior Executive Service (SES), Cheri L. Cannon is a vital component of Tully Rinckey PLLC’s nationally recognized federal labor and employment practice group. She is Managing Partner of the firm’s Washington, D.C. office.

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