Monday, October 04, 2004

Federal Office of Personnel Management Fights Terrorism Under Every Desk

In an effort to do her part to fight terrorism following 9/11, Kay Coles James, Director of the U.S. Government's Office of Personnel Management (OPM) "was determined to make sure OPM would be without peer in the quality of our personnel security program."

Imagine her surprise and shock when she was told that some OPM employee files could not be located and that some may have been inadvertently destroyed.

What to do, what to do? Why any one of OPM's 3,500 employees could be a terrorist, an evil-doer -- an obedient servant of Osama bin Laden -- waiting to wreak havoc on the Government of the United States by um, well, uh by sowing discontent among this nation's government employees or maybe even selling employees' confidential personnel records to Al Qaeda. After all, OPM is the federal government's human resource agency, responsible for overseeing personnel practices across the government. In other words, the very heart and soul of our federal government.

Using her President as a model, James quickly decided to take action against terrorism (and the lost files) by making sure current OPM employees don't pose security risks. After all, we were attacked!
Employees are being asked to undergo credit checks, have their fingerprints taken, and answer questions about divorces, overseas trips, run-ins with the law and other matters.

"It is causing a lot of anxiety among employees," said Carlos Brathwaite, first vice president at [AFGE] Local 32.
Yeah, I should think so. It's also causing a bit of confusion; OPM employees' jobs don't generally involve sensitive information or national security.

Afraid you'll get fired for being behind in your mortgage payments or having the "wrong" friends or surname? Fear not, Doris Hausser, senior policy adviser to James,
said the employee reactions were understandable, but she added that investigators will be looking at an employee's "total picture" and that "there isn't any one thing that will necessarily put a suitability determination at risk." In instances where investigators turn up information that "could be called derogatory," employees will be given an opportunity to respond and put the information in context, she said.
I'm sure everyone feels much better now.

Talks are continuing between OPM and AFGE.

Stay tuned.