Tester to federal government: Its not 1977 anymore
Senator slams government’s inability to modernize records
(U.S. SENATE) – In 1977, when 20-year-old Jon Tester was about to take over his family’s farm outside Big Sandy, Montana, the federal government took 61 days to process federal workers’ retirement papers by hand.
Thirty-seven years later, Tester is now the senior U.S. Senator for Montana, but the federal government – despite the nation’s widespread adoption of electronic records – is still averaging 61 days to process workers’ retirement papers and still doing it by hand. This delay, in addition to adding costs for taxpayers, forces retirees to wait months for their full benefit payments.
The lack of progress stems from the federal government’s failure to modernize how it handles retirees’ paperwork, which – as a recent news article reveals – still involves moving retirees’ records by hand around a massive cave in Pennsylvania.
Tester, Chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce and federal programs, says enough is enough and wants the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to stop wasting taxpayer dollars and putting retirees’ lives on hold and fix the problem.
“Over the last 30 years, OPM has aborted its own modernization efforts because of a lack of planning and accountability,” Tester told OPM Director Kathleen Archuleta. “The result of these failed efforts has been significant cost to the taxpayer with virtually nothing to show for it. This is unacceptable for the over 5 million active and retired federal employees who rely on timely and accurate processing of their retirement benefits.”
Tester, who has helped dozens of Montanans get their benefits that were delayed due to OPM’s antiquated system, told the agency he would be carefully monitoring new efforts to update the system to prevent more failures. In 1987, the government spent $25 million on an automation project that lacked oversight. In 2008, another failed attempt cost taxpayers more than $106 million.
“For almost 30 years, the modernization process has encountered a cycle of attempts and failures because of repeated project mismanagement and a lack of proper oversight,” Tester said. “This egregious waste needs to stop. Modernization efforts must not only include moving away from a paper-based system, but also include new systems and methods to keep pace with developing technologies.”
Tester is actively working to increase government efficiency with his work on the subcommittee. He recently held a hearing highlighting the need to modernize and streamline government regulations and tackled the veterans’ claims backlog with new legislation.
Tester’s letter to Office of Personnel Management Director Kathleen Archuleta is also signed by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).