OPM's John Berry sends farewell email, Kaplan to serve as acting director

Thursday - 4/11/2013, 1:06pm EDT

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry has made it official — he's stepping down from the agency when his term expires April 13.

Elaine Kaplan, OPM's general counsel, will serve as acting director, Berry announced in an email to staff Thursday.

Berry first informed the Chief Human Capital Officers Council of his impending departure at a meeting last week.

The OPM director role is limited to a four-year term, although the President can extend the term by renomination. However, there was no indication President Barack Obama intended to renominate Berry, and The Washington Post reported last month Berry is in the running to be the next ambassador to Australia.

"From my first day on the job through to today, I've known that I could count on this team to accomplish great things," Berry wrote in the email. "Together we undertook big challenges. We aimed to simplify and speed hiring, to boost hiring among Veterans and Americans with disabilities, to catch up and keep up with both retirement and background investigations, and to expand access to health insurance. We've done all that and more - much more."

Berry's full email is included below:

As many of you know, my term as Director of OPM will shortly come to a close. Starting April 15th, Elaine Kaplan will serve as Acting Director - and I know that each of you will be just as helpful to her as you've been for me.

From my first day on the job through to today, I've known that I could count on this team to accomplish great things.

Together we undertook big challenges. We aimed to simplify and speed hiring, to boost hiring among Veterans and Americans with disabilities, to catch up and keep up with both retirement and background investigations, and to expand access to health insurance.

We've done all that and more - much more.

Today we handle over 2 million background investigations a year so smoothly that we've taken the issue off the GAO list.

We've eliminated KSA's and moved to the world of the resume. We've given our applicants the respect of timely responses and concise job announcements. More than three-quarters of our job announcements were longer than 5 pages in 2009 -now 69% are shorter than 5 pages. We relaunched -and repaired - USAJOBS, and have now processed over 29 million applications since the update, with feedback that's better than ever.

We've raised the bar in big ways on hiring Veterans - from 24% of new hires in 2009 to 28.3% in 2011, and even higher preliminary numbers in 2012, reaching all-time highs. Likewise, we've lifted hiring of Americans with disabilities to all-time highs, at 7.96% of all new hires. Including Veterans who are 30% or more disabled, people with disabilities now represent 14.7% of all new hires - also an all-time high.

We've revitalized our appeal for students and recent graduates, with three clear and streamlined pathways that will keep the best talent coming into public service. We've taken the lead in boosting diversity and inclusion, with comprehensive plans from every agency, and partnerships both in and out of government.

We've set the Senior Executive Service on a new path to fulfill old principles, with a strengthened merit system, new and better training programs, and an increasingly inclusive culture across agencies - bringing more women and minorities into the SES than ever in its history.

We've made Federal health insurance possible for firefighters and emergency response workers; for same-sex partners of Federal employees, and for over 10,000 tribal employees. On an overhead of less than 0.1% of premiums, we've kept premium increases for our 8 million FEHBP members well below the industry average - just 3.4% in each of the past two years. We stood up the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Program, and we're on our way to certifying quality health insurance plans for the multi-state programs that open this fall.

We've systematically worked our way through the backlog in retirement applications, with partners and process changes that met even the challenge of extra retirements from Postal Service buyouts. We gained a new phased retirement authority that's sure to help smooth transitions and transfer institutional memory through part-time work for aging employees and mentorships for those who take over the reins.

We launched the Feds Feeds Families drive, gathering almost 16 million pounds of food and non-perishables for needy families across the nation.

We brought labor and management together to agree on the GEAR framework for performance management.

We undertook the largest-ever employee viewpoint survey - and at the same time saw our agency climb up the standings to become one of the Federal Government's best places to work. We've used employee wellness programs to quit smoking and lose weight.

We've brought our agency website forward at least a decade in both appearance and utility, and we've learned the ways of social media to help spread our messages far and wide. Through the CHCO Council and HRU, we've saved over $55 million on training, and we've proved to agencies that we're here to help.

We've started the ball rolling on changes that will help the Combined Federal Campaign continue its success as the world's biggest workplace charity drive by making sure that every last dime of employees' donations go into the charities they've chosen.

We've weathered a storm or two - even an earthquake - and we've expanded telework to keep agencies achieving their missions, no matter what the weather.

We've brought great ideas in from the private sector in the form of our Innovation Lab, a place and an approach that is already generating new approaches and new savings.

Through it all, it's been a tremendous honor to serve as your leader.

Your achievements are many and magnificent - and I deeply appreciate the work you've done to make it all possible.

Your grateful Director,

John Berry