OPM Hiring IT Staff to Work on Cyber Upgrades

Donna Seymour, CIO of OPM

Donna Seymour, CIO of OPM Cliff Owen/AP

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The agency that suffered three big data breaches needs $170,000 project managers to move forward with a computer upgrade.

The Office of Personnel Management needs at least four more senior IT project managers, with salaries totaling up to $680,000, to move forward with a controversial computing upgrade, agency officials say.

The new hires will be responsible for transporting the agency's decades-old computer systems to a new network, dubbed "the Shell,” according to a listing on the government’s official jobs website.

The technology makeover had begun before OPM last month disclosed the theft of background investigations of contractors and employees across the government with access to classified intelligence.

OPM has described the IT project as one move to buttress data protections following at least three damaging breaches over the past few years.

The modern network will be capable of "significantly increased security controls," according to a June breakdown of OPM cybersecurity and IT system improvements.

But the agency's internal watchdog views the strategy as a potential boondoggle. While agency officials currently calculate a two-year, $93 million project, that cost does not include the expense of transitioning over existing applications, Assistant Inspector General Michael Esser testified at a congressional hearing last month. The criticism was delivered along with an IG "a flash audit" warning the agency has not estimated the total time or money required for the undertaking.

Job seekers interested in the new IT openings must be certified program managers and submit applications by July 13. The managers will be working in the office of Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour, one defendant in a class action lawsuit filed last week by an employee union for her role in the hacks. OPM Director Archuleta and a contractor were also named in the complaint.

Each of the OPM senior IT managers will help lead the "dynamic migration of existing software applications to OPM's new infrastructure environment," known as the Shell, and aid the rollout of an agencywide case management system. The pay scale ranges from $121,956 to $168,700 a year.

The duties of the incoming IT senior project managers include maintaining current IT programs, blueprinting replacement systems and developing a strategy for moving the existing systems to the "Shell." The managers will also have to justify to Congress all IT expenses and produce progress reports for the Office of Management and Budget. 

Interested professionals must have one year of experience in the following technical areas:

1. Extensive project management experience in the successful development and/or implementation of software solutions using agile methodologies. (Agile development is a process in which software programmers activate features in stages to make sure they work for users before building an entire system that does not function properly.)

2. Knowledge and experience with agile-based life cycle management tool stack/suite to include requirements, source control, testing and release management.

3. Knowledge and experience with mature system development life cycle governance including the development and defense of artifacts needed to navigate control gates such as properly designed business cases and life cycle cost estimates.

Meanwhile, some members of Congress are seeking more details about OPM's planned technology overhaul. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., last month sent Archuleta a letter asking whether OPM would revise the IT strategy in light of the breaches. Lankford said he was then told the answer was no.  

"I am concerned by your statement that you do not intend to revise OPM's IT strategic plan," he wrote in a follow-up letter to Archuleta on Thursday. "It is difficult to comprehend how a breach of this magnitude would require no such revisions instead I would expect immediate and comprehensive remedial action."

OPM has said there will be a complete assessment of the scope of the IT project before the end of the fiscal year.