Office of Personnel Management

Redefine the Mission and Role of the Office of Personnel Management

OPM02: Redefine and Restructure OPM's Functional Responsibilities to Foster a Customer Orientation


The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is headed by a director and deputy director appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The agency has approximately 6,100 employees located in the central office in Washington, D.C., and in field offices around the country. There are six major organizational components: Career Entry Group, Personnel Systems and Oversight Group, Retirement and Insurance Group, Human Resources Development Group, Investigations Group, and the Administration Group. Five regional offices carry out programs in the field: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. The Washington Area Service Center provides similar services to agencies in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In addition, there are service centers in key field locations, federal job information and testing centers, and other field duty stations.

OPM's administrative budget is about $460 million. It manages a trust fund of about $22 billion. Through the six organizational components and field units, OPM assumes roles in three broad areas:

establishing governmentwide policy and procedures for human resource management;

acting as a regulator and evaluator of agency behavior; and

providing governmentwide services.

These three roles are often performed within a more or less decentralized, but centrally regulated, federal human resource system.

Need for Change

OPM has had difficulty balancing its multiple roles and goals. OPM's goals often tend to conflict. OPM's internal structure inhibits the agency's ability to deal effectively with these issues. Some critics claim that OPM has lost its administrative capacity and doubt that the agency can "reconstitute the nature of the organization and reestablish the validity and usefulness of what it produces."(1) The Clinton/Gore transition team assessed the OPM structure as chaotic and suffering from a lack of integration.(2) As far back as 1989, the General Accounting Office recommended that "OPM initiate an internal management improvement and organization development agenda."(3)

Implementation of the National Performance Review (NPR) recommendations concerning human resource management will place new demands on OPM. Structural and organizational changes will be needed to ensure the agency's capability to respond to these demands and support the government culture change effort.


1. Restructure OPM to reflect its commitment to meeting its customers' needs. (1)

Decentralizing personnel authority and assuming new roles will require OPM to restructure along lines that set a new standard for organizing human resource units throughout the federal government. OPM has an opportunity to reorganize itself in a way that removes current barriers to its own effectiveness and sends a message through-out government that OPM is indeed serious about significant change.

A changed OPM role presents the opportunity to reorganize and rightsize in a way that contributes to OPM's efficiency and effectiveness. This will involve both structural and cultural changes within the agency. Such restructuring should be timed to maximize OPM's contribution to achieving the administration's chief goal-- namely, the smooth and successful transition of responsibility for human resource management from OPM to federal agencies.

2. Downsize OPM to reflect its changed roles and functions. (1)

Implementation of NPR recommendations will require significant changes in the size and structure of OPM. Although OPM will have to decide how to approach this task, key considerations should include:

downsizing and realigning examining services, but funding that staff on a reimbursable basis (e.g., establishing a revolving fund or developing contracts with agencies);

helping agencies achieve a more diverse workforce through use of their personnel and management systems;

working with agencies to institute a more effective nationwide job information system;

integrating or refocusing OPM research and development offices;

completely reinventing OPM's approaches to compliance and evaluation;

integrating and changing aspects of OPM's information and database systems, including the Macon Service Center and Central Personnel Data File;

improving interagency training functions to reflect and reinforce governmentwide policy and culture change (this will be especially important to reinforce OPM's leadership role);

changing the Investigations Group from a monopoly to a service organization; and

reexamining the role and size of OPM's Office of the Inspector General, giving strong consideration to incorporating a more collaborative problem-solving role, as recommended in the NPR report on the inspector general function.

Cross References to Other NPR Accompanying Reports

Department of Justice, DOJ12: Streamline Background Investigations for Federal Employees.

Department of Treasury/Resolution Trust Corporation, TRE13: Streamline Background Investigations for Federal Employees.

Streamlining Management Control, SMC03: Change the Focus of the Inspectors General.

Improving Financial Management, FM06: "Franchise" Internal Services.


1. Lane, Larry M., "The Office of Personnel Management: Values, Policies, and Consequences," in Patricia W. Ingraham and David H. Rosenbloom, eds., The Promise and Paradox of Civil Service Reform (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992), p. 116.

2. Government Operations Cluster, "Office of Personnel Management: Presidential Transition Book," December 1992, p. 70. (Draft.)

3. U.S. General Accounting Office, Managing Human Resources: Greater Leadership Needed to Address Critical Challenges, GAO/GGD-89-19 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, January 1989), p. 95.

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