Electronic Government:

Progress and Challenges in Implementing the Office of Personnel Management's Initiatives

GAO-03-1169T: Published: Sep 23, 2003. Publicly Released: Sep 23, 2003.

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Linda D. Koontz
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Office of Public Affairs
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Electronic government (e-government) refers to the use of information technology (IT), including Web-based Internet applications, to enhance access to and delivery of government information and services, as well as to improve the internal efficiency and effectiveness of the federal government. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is managing five e-government initiatives whose goal is to transform the way OPM oversees the government's human capital functions. These 5 initiatives are among 25 identified by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as foremost in the drive toward egovernment transformation. The 25 initiatives have ambitious goals, including eliminating redundant, nonintegrated business operations and systems and improving service to citizens by an order of magnitude. Achieving these results, according to OMB, could produce billions of dollars in savings from improved operational efficiency. In today's testimony, among other things, GAO identifies the challenges facing OPM as it moves forward in implementing the five human capital initiatives.

OPM's five e-government initiatives are an ambitious attempt to transform the way human capital functions and services are carried out in the federal government. OPM faces several challenges that, if not fully met, could prevent it from meeting its objectives and realizing projected improvements and dollar savings. For instance, in order to meet a perceived need for quick results, alterations have been made to the acquisition plans for several of the 25 OMBsponsored e-government initiatives, including OPM's Recruitment One-Stop initiative. In OPM's recent decision to continue with its awarded contract for Recruitment One-Stop, despite a successful bid protest by Symplicity Corporation, agency officials perceived the need for quick results to be one factor outweighing the importance of issues raised by GAO concerning the conduct of the procurement. However, by taking this course, OPM risks alienating potential supporters of its initiative. Further, managing the migration from agency-specific systems to consolidated systems will be a challenge, because agencies may be required to take positive action to shut down existing systems and invest in additional or updated technology to use the new, consolidated systems resulting from OPM's five initiatives. Consequently, it will be crucial for OPM to implement effective change management and communication policies. In addition, technical integration across agencies to support consolidation, including the development of standards, is a formidable task. Finally, OPM also faces a significant challenge in realistically estimating the cost savings to be derived from these initiatives. In many cases, estimates of cost savings are only loosely based on measures that are difficult to quantify, such as the average cost of performing a certain function across the government. To be truly effective in meeting its goals, OPM needs to establish complete, meaningful, and quantitative measures of cost savings.

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