OPM sketches map for online personnel files

OPM sketches map for online personnel files

'We're still developing a profile, in effect a road map,' OPM's Janet Barnes said.

By A single database ultimately will link every federal employee once the Office of Personnel Management builds a giant personnel infrastructure.

That vision, originally conceived nearly three years ago, has taken on urgency now that it is one of five critical personnel initiatives tapped by the Office of Management and Budget for inclusion on the administration's slate of 24 e-government projects.

Bringing the five OPM-led efforts to fruition has leaders in the personnel agency in a quandary about everything from systems architecture to security.

Some efforts are progressing faster than others. All are encountering interdependence on other agencies' initiatives.

'We're still developing a profile, in effect a road map,' CIO Janet Barnes said. She and the OPM project leaders meet every Wednesday afternoon to plan and report to OMB.

'You have to understand the business first,' said Maryann Flynn, associate program manager for OPM's Enterprise Human Resource Integration initiative.

With $24 million in funding earmarked in the president's fiscal 2003 budget request, the Enterprise HR Integration database is slated to become the central repository for all federal employee HR information, from salary and training levels to security clearances.

Flynn said she has been working with the General Services Administration on early standards for Extensible Markup Language tags for such data. Certain personnel descriptions differ by agency, she said, just as leave and overtime calculations do.

Employees eventually will use a personal identification number and a passcode via their intranets to connect to the protected central Enterprise HR Integration database. But Flynn said the hardware and security technology have not been chosen.

Each agency would be responsible for the security of its own information, Barnes said, and knowing whether there is a standard implementation would help her decide what to do next.

It's right here

The current HR record-keeping method is paper. Flynn joked, 'Let's just hope nobody ever loses your personnel file.' Finding information about a federal employee moving to another agency is an exercise in frustration marked by paper cuts, she said.
In contrast, the e-Clearance initiative has no money from the IT budget, but its technical process is already set. According to OMB's E-Government Strategy report, e-Clearance will be completed by June 30, after the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Service finish beta-testing e-QIP'an electronic Questionnaire for Investigations Processing.

The e-QIP software will replace the SF 86 form that federal employees must complete for any security clearance.

John Crandell, e-Clearance project manager and chief of oversight and technical assistance in OPM's Investigations Service, said agencies can take their old employee files, check previous clearance data and just 'repopulate it.'

A second part of e-Clearance is a verification system that will combine all clearance information from OPM's Security/Suitability Investigations Index and the Defense Department's Joint Personnel Adjudication System.

The connection will shorten background checks for top-secret and lower clearances from nearly eight months to two to three months, he said.

Anything higher has to go through the National Security Council, Crandell said, but the number of people with clearances above top secret is not that large.

'For some time there has been a backlog of security clearance investigations and reinvestigations at DOD,' Crandell said.

E-Clearance will require $50,000 worth of imaging software to photograph the files, and 'that's the only one that's a little behind,' Crandell said.

As part of OPM's investigations program, e-Clearance will earn its keep from other agencies. 'No OPM money per se will be used to fund our portion of e-Clearance,' Crandell said, because there's already enough money in a revolving fund to run e-Clearance until 2011.

OPM's three other initiatives'e-Training, Recruitment One-Stop and e-Payroll'have not received funding.

Tom Caporizzo, director of military and civilian pay operations at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and in charge of e-Payroll, said he has no money yet. The business case for his project will be finished by March 31, but development must go in parallel with the other projects.

The federal government has 14 payroll processors: the Agriculture, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation and Veterans Affairs departments; DFAS; the Environmental Protection Agency; GSA; the National Science Foundation; NASA; and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Majority rule

OPM wants to reduce the 14 to two or three that will work best with its overarching payroll system.

Caporizzo said Defense and Agriculture process 65 percent to 85 percent of the government's paychecks. He wants to choose the two or three systems that cost the least to operate.

OPM's Office of Payroll Policy, led by Barnes, will develop the payroll processing standards.

E-Training has been one of the slowest-moving initiatives because it requires cooperation from every agency that administers or tracks courses for employees.

The project, expected to be completed by November 2003, will automate the courses and track all employees' training status. The information will be stored with personnel records in the Enterprise HR Integration database.

'Incremental milestones are an important way to focus on getting things accomplished,' said Robert Reeve, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC who is helping OPM with e-Payroll, e-Training, Recruitment One-Stop and Enterprise HR Integration.

'You can change a system in a matter of weeks,' he said. 'The people dimension adds complexity.'

That's been the issue with the Recruitment One-Stop job portal. OPM is still studying other job sites and doesn't plan to finish designing the front end until June.

The portal, which should be completed by June 30, 2003, will operate somewhat like Monster.com, Reeve said, letting users apply for jobs, check status and send information to the Enterprise HR Integration database after they are hired.

'We're at an information gathering point,' said Karen Leydon, OPM's acting assistant director for employment service. She said she is examining the CIO Council's best practices for ideas about the portal's development.

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