OPM Faces Challenges Implementing Federal Retirement Systems Modernization Effort

OPM has much work to do to keep retirement systems modernization effort on schedule

The Office of Personnel Management has much work to do if it plans to meet its goal of implementing its Retirement Systems Modernization by fiscal year 2008, according to government auditors.

OPM, which manages the systems that process retirement benefits for most federal civilian employees, faces some major hurdles in getting the system integrated, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office. For one, GAO stated that major systems acquisitions such as the RSM require solid systems acquisition, change management, and investment management processes in place to increase the likelihood of the acquisitions meeting cost and schedule estimates as well as performance requirements.

However, GAO found that many of the processes in these areas for RSM are not sufficiently developed, are under development or are planned for future development.

“For example, OPM lacks needed processes for developing and managing requirements, planning and managing project activities, managing risks, and providing sound information to investment decision makers. Without these processes in place, RSM is at increased risk of not being developed and delivered on time and within budget and falling short of promised capabilities,” the report stated.

Currently, RSM comprises four major components:

– Licensed technology for pension benefits administration

– Data conversion of paper files and development of electronic processes for capture and storage of data

– Coverage determination and other applications

– Foundation and infrastructure elements

OPM’s goals through RSM, are to improve customer service, reduce calculation errors, and reduce the amount of paper-based and manual processing. OPM expects RSM’s total cost to be about $294 million from fiscal year 1997 to fiscal year 2008, when the agency expects to have most of RSM implemented and integrated. GAO conducted the study to determine:

– The current status of and plans for OPM’s RSM program

– The challenges OPM faces in successfully managing the program.

As a result of the study, GAO is recommending that the director of OPM ensure that the RSM program office establishes processes needed for effective oversight of the RSM program.

In written comments on a draft of the briefing, the OPM director agreed that the management processes we identified are essential and described steps the agency is taking to strengthen these processes.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47