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House panel investigates Presidential Management Fellows program

Mar. 5, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said he is concerned that troubles with the Presidential Management Fellows program point to larger information technology problems within the Office of Personnel Management.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said he is concerned that troubles with the Presidential Management Fellows program point to larger information technology problems within the Office of Personnel Management. (Thomas Brown / Staff file photo)

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is concerned the Presidential Management Fellows program is being mismanaged, and plans to take a closer look.

Committee members are especially concerned that the Office of Personnel Management in January mistakenly told about 300 PMF semifinalists they had qualified as finalists, when they had not. They also said OPM in November sent PMF candidates blank e-mails that did not say whether they had qualified for in-person assessments, and said applicants could not access their online assessments for four days in October.

In a March 1 letter to OPM Director John Berry, committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and federal workforce subcommittee chairman Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., said they are concerned that troubles with the PMF program point to larger information technology problems within the agency.

"The Presidential Management [Fellows] program is the flagship leadership development program for advanced degree candidates entering the federal government," they said. "Unfortunately, recent problems with OPM's administration of the program threaten its prestige and the government's ability to recruit future fellows."

"These errors have caused real harm to applicants," they said.

The government's prestigious PMF program seeks to find federal jobs for outstanding graduate students in a variety of areas. Anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 students apply for the program in any given year, and the government usually chooses roughly 800 students to be finalists, making them eligible to be hired into at least GS-9 jobs. Once they are hired, they officially become fellows. After they serve two years as fellows, agencies can choose to convert them without competition to permanent federal jobs.

Issa and Ross also said OPM may not be successfully educating agencies on how to best use fellows.

They asked OPM for a list of formal complaints on the PMF program, details on any issues that may have affected candidates' ability to apply for the program, and what OPM did to fix those problems. They also requested a timeline on upcoming changes to the PMF program, and stats on the retention of fellows.

OPM has until April 13 to respond.

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