Reinventing Human Resource Management

HRM12: Eliminate Excessive Red Tape and Automate Functions and Information


The federal personnel system is clogged with unnecessary process constraints and thousands of pages of regulations. In 1983, the National Academy of Public Administration concluded:

The present personnel management system is far too process oriented. It is much too rigid and needs major change. . . . Thousands of pages of personnel regulations tend to remold personnel managers into personnel technicians. Because of the complexity of these regulations, line managers tend to abdicate their responsibilities for personnel decisions and fail to give personnel management the high priority it deserves. Process drives out substance.(1)

Ten years later, the Federal Personnel Manual (FPM) has expanded to over 10,000 pages of policies, regulations, guidance, and processing instructions. Additional agency directives parallel and often supplement the FPM. While agency directives and the FPM contain information needed by line managers, they are primarily written for the personnel administrators upon whom managers must depend for interpretation. Additionally, until recently, OPM has not led any efforts to use technology to reduce the number of manually prepared required reports or to enhance agency accountability systems.

The past 10 years have also seen a technology explosion. Every agency has a data system that supports internal operations and feeds into the Central Personnel Data File (CPDF) of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). However, agency systems are outdated and are not interoperable; while complex processes contained in the FPM or agency regulations have been automated, automation has focused primarily on internal personnel office operations almost to the exclusion of managers' needs.

Need for Change

Managers and human resource administrators must be freed from unnecessary process constraints in order to focus on mission instead of efforts to overcome obstacles to its achievement. As process constraints are eliminated, use of technology needs to expand to eliminate manually prepared reports, provide access to information, support management decisionmaking, and monitor organizational performance.


1. Phase out the entire Federal Personnel Manual and all agency implementing directives. (2)

The President should issue an Executive Order that declares that the FPM will be substantially revised, reduced, or otherwise eliminated by December 1994, and that

--- directs OPM to involve agencies in identifying those portions of the FPM that are essential, should be retained and for whom, are useful and to whom, and are unnecessary;

--- restricts agency supplementation of law and regulation; and

--- requires maximum delegation of personnel management authorities to the lowest practical organizational level within agencies and to line managers or self-managed work teams operating in flattened organizational structures.

The positive implications of this action are the short-term elimination of unnecessary red tape and the potential for streamlining and simplifying all aspects of the personnel system. On the other hand, additional time may be needed to implement it fully, especially in light of other National Performance Review (NPR) recommendations. However, the objective can be met if pursued as a priority and if agencies are involved in the governmentwide effort. Additionally, the process itself will ensure that all NPR personnel recommendations are addressed.

2. Replace the Federal Personnel Manual and agency directives with automated personnel processes, electronic decision support systems, and manuals tailored to user needs. (1)

The director of OPM should accelerate and expand efforts already under way to streamline and automate personnel processes in coordination with the FPM review process and to avoid redundant develop-ment costs. Governmentwide deployment of the Department of Defense/Navy automated personnel action processing system application should be examined for potential cost savings. Costs for centrally developed systems or applications should be shared on a pro rata basis among all participating agencies with OPM providing seed money.

3. Identify and develop useful accountability measures that can be automated. (1)

The director of OPM, with the assistance of agency managers and staff experts (personnel, planning, information management, and budget), should develop, by December 1994, automated methods or accountability measures for use by agency heads to monitor exercise of delegated personnel management authorities. A variety of data sources could be tapped, including OPM's CPDF, the Survey of Federal Employees, and any reports that may continue to be necessary. Indicators that could be used to measure accountability include cash award trends to note unusual patterns, or conversions from excepted to career appointments to identify potential violations of merit principles. Such management information systems can be powerful tools for use in ensuring that managers are properly exercising the increased delegations envisioned by NPR. They also should be an element of the reinvented oversight program called for in the NPR accompanying report on the Office of Personnel Management.

Cross References to Other NPR Accompanying Reports

Department of Defense, DOD01: Rewrite Policy Directives to Include Better Guidance and Fewer Procedures.

Streamlining Management Controls, SMC08: Expand the Use of Waivers to Encourage Innovation.

Strengthening the Partnership in Intergovernmental Service Delivery, FSL02: Reduce Red Tape through Regulatory and Mandate Relief.


1. National Academy of Public Administration, Deregulation of Government Management Project: Personnel Management (Washington, D.C., October 1983), p. i. (Interim panel report.)

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