U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Was this page helpful?

January 25, 2017

Table of contents

Approval of October 19, 2016 minutes [5 minutes]

Ongoing Matters [50 minutes] 

  • Status of Action Items from October 19, 2016 Forum meeting – Frank Milman [5 minutes]
  • Enterprise Services
  • Ken Kukovich [5 minutes] 
  • Phased Retirement
  • Status of implementation of phased retirement in the Department – Valerie Smith [5 minutes]
  • Report from Forum Metric Working Group – Fred Steckler [25 minutes] 
  • Discussion of additional questions to the Metric – Laura et. al. 
  • FEVS – working with OPM to improve the FEVS – Laurie Schwede [5 minutes]
  • FEVS – Department Level results – Kevin Mahoney [5 minutes]

New Business [25 minutes]

  • Where do we go from here? – Kevin Mahoney and Howard Friedman [10 minutes]
  • Transition Team Developments – Lisa Casias [10 minutes] 
  • Issues with WebTA – Kevin Mahoney [5 minutes]

Other Business [5 minutes]


  • January 25
  • April 19
  • July 19
  • October 18

CALL IN NUMBER 866-453-8771; PASS CODE 2785164

Meeting Minutes

January 25, 2017 1:00 – 3:00 PM
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW., Room 48019 Washington, DC

Meeting called by: Labor-Management Forum
Type of meeting: Quarterly Meeting of the Forum
Program Manager: Mr. Frank Milman
Note Taker: Ms. Mary O’Connor, Ms. Valerie Smith

Attendees: Vonda Bell (Census) and Ken Kukovich (EDA) participated by phone. See sign-in sheet for participants in attendance.

Documents: Minutes and Action Items from the October Meeting of the Forum, Combined Issues with WebTA document


Agenda item: Introductions/Approval of October Minutes
Presenter: Ms. Ellen Herbst

A motion was made to adopt minutes taken on October 19, 2016, and minutes were approved. 

Agenda item: Status of Action Items from October 2016 Forum Meeting
Presenter: Mr. Frank Milman

All but two action items have been resolved. 

Agenda item: Enterprise Services
Presenter: Mr. Ken Kukovich

The Management Co-Chair gave an update on Enterprise Services, noting that Congressional approval was received to create the structure of Enterprise Services as a permanent part of the Department. Another reprogramming request for additional funding for Enterprise Services was not approved. Since pending business goes away with a new Congress, a new request will need to be made for additional funding. The Enterprise Services team put together an impact to schedule and scope for FY17, and did initial briefing to the DMC. The Management Co-Chair emphasized that things are still very tentative, and that the presentation covered what they say they can do with the money they have. Example: additional people for strategic sourcing contracts. All HR offices are now using HR Connect, which means all HR offices have same software. When converted to HR Connect, Accenture started PAR processing for DOCHROC and NOAA. It was noted that Accenture is staffed up in their location in Chesapeake, VA. 

A member asked if HR Connect will speed up National Weather Service staffing needs. The response specified that HR Connect with Accenture should be able to. Metrics are currently being put together, but management is optimistic about this way of doing business. 

Mr. Kukovich stated he is still waiting on the Enterprise Services business case, and wants to see a before and after of how things were before Enterprise Services, and how they will be after. The Management Co-Chair suggested that Glen Davidson attend next LMF meeting for updates. 

An issue of linking to the website was noted for the National Weather Service. This will be resolved by Ms. Desrosiers.

Agenda item: Phased Retirement 
Presenter: Ms. Valerie Smith


Ms. Smith reported that with the exception of USPTO, the Department has had 10 employees accept and begin phased retirement. Those who have begun phased retirement range from GS 13-15 and ST, and are spread between Census, NIST, and NOAA. 

A member announced that she is currently utilizing the phased retirement program, and is aware of others who will begin the program. USPTO will provide their numbers to Ms. Smith. 

It was noted that there is a real need for capacity in financial advisory services for those considering phased retirement. It was also expressed that when this reaches a sufficient milestone, a report to the press or Department may be a next step. 

A member stated that there has been some difficulty trying to utilize the phased retirement program in the National Weather Service and at Fisheries. It was suggested that additional communication may be beneficial. It was also recommended that all HR office share their developed communication on the topic. 

Agenda item: Report from Forum Metric Working Group
Presenter: Mr. Fred Steckler


Mr. Steckler reported that there was not much feedback from the LMF on metrics. Mr. Milman submitted the Department’s FY16 Metrics Report to the National Labor Council on behalf of the LMF. The intent was to provide a metric to measure activity of forum. There are 3 categories of activities the Forum wanted to measure: information communication sharing, specific initiatives and teams or forums that the forum initiated, joint deliberation and development (phased retirement is perfect example of this). It was asked if the Forum would like to elaborate on this more for this year’s metric. An example would be to determine a policy to work on with the highest level of collaboration.

A management member believed that the Forum was to look at metrics to determine goals and agenda for the year. Another management member stated that polices such as phased retirement do not always come along; it was a result of legislation, and suggested that new legislation may drive some initiatives this year. 

A question occurred about the existence of the Forum, and if there would be anything that would exclude the Forum for working together. A member stated that the Forum is a problem solving body, and its presence makes business sense. The Labor Co-Chair echoed that the Forum leads to three things: improving employee engagement, improving employee morale, and improving labor relations and agency performance.

Ms. Desrosiers offered to initiate a data call within NOAA to request the top 10 collaboration items. The Labor Co-Chair suggested that there should be a deliverable from the group to go back to the bureaus, and that a document should be shared among the bureaus/unions. A member suggested that the document should include something about the quality of pre-decisional involvement. 

A management member stated they believed that at some point in the new administration there may need to be a justification of the Forum’s existence, and its accomplishments. The Management Co-Chair reaffirmed that the Forum exists to improve employee engagement, morale, performance, labor relations etc.; therefore, Forum metrics should reflect this.

Agenda item: FEVS – Working with OPM to Improve the FEVS
Presenter: Ms. Laurie Schwede


Ms. Schwede reported of an arrangement with OPM to conduct a small pilot. OPM is concerned that a lot of people are not filling out the form, so they decided to have a button for those not wishing to complete the survey. The employee could press the button and then state why they do want to fill out the survey. They came up with this idea on the late side, so no agencies wanted to participate. OPM applied the button internally. They are trying to figure out the reason for non-response rate. They sent a sample to their employees and they hoped to get a lot of data, but they only had 19 of 1200 employees respond. They want to do it again after they make changes to the site, and have asked the Forum to help this endeavor. OPM would co-write a paper with Census. This update of site will start soon.

OPM has discussed collaborating with others outside of Government to revise survey questions. It is unclear if this is going to go forward or not, and it is too late for 2017, as questions have to be locked down in March. OPM posted a Federal Register to reduce the number of required questions, and received a lot of negative feedback stating that all of the questions are needed to gather good data. EDA has someone who is interested in helping out with this, and they will be in contact with Ms. Schwede. 

Ms. Schwede also reported that the Department can add 6-8 questions at the end of the survey, but it has to be Department–wide, not by bureau. The Management Co-Chair stated that this sounds like something that the Forum could measure against the criteria and to determine if it’s something that this group want to take on. She stated it is something that the Forum can work on it this year, so it would be ready for 2018 survey.

Agenda item: FEVS – Department Level Results
Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney
Mr. Mahoney reported that the Department is number 2 for large agencies best places to work and 1st in cabinet level agencies. He also noted that EDA really improved in its rankings, and that the Department improved overall.

Agenda item: Where do we go from here?
Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney, Mr. Howard Freedman

Mr. Mahoney informed the Forum that the President issued a memorandum for a hiring freeze on January 23rd. He stated that there are a lot of things to be interpreted in the memorandum, and he has asked the PHRMs to provide certain data on vacancies. People who have received tentative job offers with no EOD, will probably not be hired. People who have job offers and have an EOD date, should be able to come on board. Any exceptions have to be approved by the head of the Department (Secretary); however, we have to determine what our exceptions are going to be. The Management Co-Chair noted that what is being shared on this topic is all pre-decisional. Right now the Department is in the data-gathering stage, and a procedure on how to request exceptions is being drafted. As soon as there is more information, it will be shared. For right now, for all intents and purposes, all hiring is frozen. The memorandum states that things can be reallocated, and what was learned from a call today was that we can move people within the Department, but not to another Department.

Agency specific updates and concerns:

  • Foreign Commercial Service – People who are being offered jobs now have been in the pipeline for 2 ½ years. We have 5-6 people getting ready to onboard who have been in pipeline for over 2 years. 
  • NWS – has a critical shortfall, and not being able to recruit entry level positions is a disadvantage for the agency. It was asked if NWS be considered public safety? Management stated they are trying to determine this through the data call.
  • Census 2020 Decennial – leadership knows that hiring is frozen until a determination about the 2020 Census as an exception is made.

The Labor Co-Chair stated it would be helpful to have a conference call after the data is collected from the data call.

A discussion occurred about how to smartly live in a constantly constrained budget. Mr. Mahoney stated that there has been no discussion of pay freezes; career-ladder promotions and WIGIs are ok. A member said they heard something about a 1% per year of discretionary funding decrease. The Management Co-Chair affirmed that there has been a lot written in the process, but that there are a lot of Government processes that have to happen first. We are under a CR for FY 17; FY 18 will be the first full year budget. We are waiting on guidance on what’s going to happen to FY 18. 

The Labor Co-Chair stated that until the Forum is told otherwise, and legislation is passed, it’s important that we get a commitment from this body that official time stays as it is. The bureaus are told nothing different and no one is treated any differently, until something actually comes out. It would be great to have direction now from this group regarding official time. Mr. Mahoney concluded that we should ask ourselves what can we do differently, stating that labor can think about how to best use official time. The Management Co-Chair echoed that we are not changing anything regarding the use of official time. 

Agenda item: Transition Team Developments
Presenter: Ms. Lisa Casias


Ms. Casias reported that the agency review team is no longer in the building, and is finished. The Department is moving forward with the new team. Government wide, the Department was recognized as a very successful transition team. She reported that the Department had 5 people onboard within the Office of the Secretary, and that the Department is hoping to have the Secretary onboard in the next week; however, there is no confirmation date. There has not been any discussion on any policy (or labor), right now the focus has been setting up the new team. 

Agenda item: Issues with WebTA
Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney


Mr. Mahoney reported that we are steadily working on issues with WebTA. Some issues include shiftwork, and requesting time off. While problems are being reported, they are not receiving feedback on the status of issues. Mr. Mahoney acknowledged that we need to close the loop and report status back to those who have reported issues. Ms. Casias noted that this is on a “fix list,” but that items need to be prioritized. The Labor Co-Chair suggested an order of importance of issues would be helpful. 

Agenda item: Other Business
No other business.

Action Items

Item Responsible Party Status Deadline
Invite Glen Davidson to next LMF Ellen Herbst TBD April 19, 2017
Resolve Enterprise Services link issue with NWS Renee Desrosiers TBD


Provide USPTO Phased Retirement Numbers to Valerie Smith Fred Steckler TBD ASAP
Determine root issue with phased retirement communication in NWS and Fisheries Renee Desrosiers TBD ASAP
All HR offices to share communication on phased retirement Kevin Mahoney?? TBD ASAP
Initiate data call in NOAA for Forum metrics Renee Desrosiers TBD TBD
Develop document with PDI quality for data call NOAA Group? Forum? TBD TBD
Connect EDA contact for FEVS help with Laurie Schwede Greg Brown TBD TBD
Develop Department-wide questions for FEVS survey Forum TBD TBD
Call after data collection on hiring freeze Kevin Mahoney TBD TBD
Prioritize “fix list” Lisa Casias TBD TBD