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October 19, 2016

Table of contents

Approval of July 20, 2016 minutes (5 minutes) – Ellen Herbst

Ongoing Matters (60 minutes) 

  • Status of Action Items from July 20, 2016 Forum meeting – Frank Milman [5 minutes]
  • Enterprise Services
    • Ken Kukovich [5 minutes] 
  • Phased Retirement
    • Promoting the success of the Department’s Phased Retirement policy to the press – Laurie Schwede and Kevin Mahoney [5 minutes]
    • Status of implementation of phased retirement in the Department – Valerie Smith [5 minutes]
  • Report from Forum Metric Working Group – Fred Steckler [10 minutes]
  • Travel Policy Handbook – Frank Milman/Gay Shrum [15 minutes]
  • FEVS – working with OPM to improve the FEVS – Laurie Schwede [5 minutes] 
  • FEVS – Department Level results – Kevin Mahoney [5 minutes]
  • Gender Pay Gap/Pay Parity – Lavern Byrd/Shannon Fitzgerald [5 minutes] (tentative)

New Business [10 minutes]

  • Transition – Ellen Herbst [5 minutes]
  • New OPM Guidance on FY2017 Cap on Performance Awards -- 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

October 19, 2016, 1–3 PM 
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW., Room 48019, Washington, DC

Meeting called by: Labor-Management Forum
Program Manager: Mr. Frank Milman
Attendees: See sign-in sheet for participants in attendance.
Documents: Minutes and Action Items from the July Meeting of the Forum, Travel Policy Handbook
Type of meeting: Quarterly Meeting of the Forum
Note Taker: Ms. Mary O’Connor


Agenda item: Introductions/Approval of July Minutes
Presenter: Ms. Ellen Herbst
A motion was made to adopt minutes taken on July 20, 2016, and minutes were approved. 

Agenda item: Status of Action Items from July 2016 Forum Meeting
Presenter: Mr. Frank Milman
The following action items were addressed: 

  • Phased Retirement
    • A total of eight employees have gone through phased retirement (2 at NOAA, 4 at NIST, and 2 at Census). All requests for early retirement have been approved. 
  • Pre-Decisional Involvement (PDI) and FY16 Metric
    • A proposed metric handout titled “DOC LMF Activity and Engagement” was distributed for presentation in the meeting. 
    • Three levels of collaboration were established: sharing information, initiatives/projects, and joint policy. 
      • The ultimate goal is to do things together and increase what is done at level three (joint policy level). 
      • Next steps include discussions on what stage PDI occurred (initially, draft, etc) in previous efforts, the quality of PDI (good, acceptable, etc), and what could be done to improve PDI in the future. 
    • Comments on this proposed metric should be sent tthe metric team, which includes Ms. Laurie Schwede, Ms. Kathy Faint, Mr. Fred Steckler, and Ms. Renee Desrosiers. Comments, feedback, and proactive topic suggestions should be received by November 14th. The team will finalize a submission by the end of November. 
    • It was suggested that the PDI metric may work to use as a template for bureaus in future years. It was also recommended to use January 25th Forum meeting to focus on goals for the year. 
  • Gender Pay
    • The team addressing gender pay is still in the information sharing stage.

Agenda item: Enterprise Services
Presenter: Mr. Ken Kukovich

Mr. Kukovich followed up with NTIS on their experience with IT shared services; however, they were not able to conclude how things were before shared services, and therefore had no way to compare the benefits now. 

He also shared what he found on www.performance.gov as an example of what GSA is doing right now (below). In the future, there will be benchmarks available to measure performance and cost. 

“The Federal Government will leverage the Executive Councils to develop common standards and benchmarks to measure shared service utilization, performance, and cost. Mandate those standards and benchmarks for common administrative services. From these standards and benchmarks we will drive efficiencies and greater performance by: 1) increasing the capacity of the Federal Shared Service Providers (SSPs) at DOI, USDA, Treasury, HHS, DOT and DOD; and 2) requiring use of lower-cost, higher-performing Shared Services for all agencies and SSPs which cannot meet established targets. We will target the following areas for Shared Services (listed in order of priority): financial, HR, technology, and acquisition.

The Management Co-Chair stated that she is the Co-Chair of the Customer Council for this Government-wide Shared Services initiative. This year, they identified who provides services to others currently. Over time, more common metrics and definitions will be available, and potential clients could become more educated consumers/shoppers of services. 

Mr. Kukovich stated he is still awaiting a business case from the Enterprise Services team. An update will be requested for the January meeting. The project team is still running, and is operating under the name “Enterprise Services,” in order to alleviate any confusion from the Government-wide shared services initiative.

Agenda item: Travel Policy Handbook
Presenter: Ms. Gay Shrum and Mr. Frank Milman


During the last meeting of the Forum, a travel policy review team was established and promised to meet on this topic. After two conference calls, Ms. Shrum’s team blended comments received and reviewed additional comments to implement. Mr. Milman passed out comments, where they came from, and a final version to the Forum. Ms. Shrum also covered topics of concern while in Florida, demonstrating the new travel system. She addressed the findings IG had about controls and approvals, and believes she is ready to move forward and put the policy on the web.

A member asked if the training requirement is combined with the travel card training. Ms. Shrum stated that they are two separate trainings (one for policy, one for the travel card). Travel policy training will be annual mandatory training for anyone who travels, prepares travel, or approves travel. There will be a training email, deadline, and reminders distributed, similar to IT refresher training. The HCHB will have four in person classes available, and trainings will also occur at NIST and Census.

One member was concerned with compliance issues with the lengthy policy. The Management Co-Chair reminded the Forum that this is an update to an existing manual. Additionally, the online system has built in check points that will help compliance, and that there is a difference between innocent mistakes and willful intent. 

A member stated they have been using the new system since March, and considers the policy almost like a reference manual, since there are so many checks in place.

Agenda item: FEVS – working with OPM to improve the FEVS
Presenter: Ms. Laurie Schwede


OPM was interested in collaboration with Census in two areas: improving the survey and assessing interactions between confidentiality concerns and non response. OPM said they were considering setting up a new outside advisory committee to consult on changing the FEVS, and Census expressed willingness to be part of that committee. However, it is going at a slower rate than expected and the advisory committee may not start meeting until January. Since the deadline for changes is mid-March, there would be minimal changes this year. 

OPM is interested in Census working with them on a new experimental design that would build on a split-panel test they did last year. FEVS response rates have been declining and are below 50%. OPM had an idea to include an opt-out button to get feedback on why employees may not want to do survey and also give one last chance for them to do the survey. When piloted, around one percent of the 1200 OPM employees in the experimental sample selected this option. OPM is proposing to expand this idea into a larger opt-out experiment, and has invited Census to work collaboratively on this. Census still needs to know the level of involvement and time frame. It is unclear if this would be done in conjunction with the JPSM survey design class. 

Additionally, Ms. Schwede shared that individual agencies can add questions onto the end of survey with a potential charge (she is checking that). It was asked if this would that be something the Forum would want to consider as a project, and suggested perhaps considering adding a question or two about pay parity, for example. . Lastly, the FEVS for 2016 will return to being a census, requesting responses from 100% of the population, instead of a sample. 

In response, Ms. Herbst invited all forum members to submit questions they would like to see added to the FEVS in 2017. Mr. Milman will forward the questions to Ms. Schwede and she will draw up a list and send it to Frank for distribution to all members for comments.

Agenda item: FEVS Department Level
Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney

The FEVS went out to approximately 19,000 Department employees with a 51.6% response rate. This is higher than the Government response rate of 45.8%. On 73 out of 77 questions, the Department had a higher rate than the Government average. The Department had a better response of 1-2% on the three questions used to rank the best places to work. Across the board, the Department’s scores increased 1-3%. Bureaus have started releasing their information, and by middle of November, all bureaus will get responses out to employees. More information on responses can be found at www.unlocktalent.gov

Agenda item: Transition
Presenter: Ms. Ellen Herbst

Ms. Lisa Casias was introduced as the chair of the transition effort. There was a briefing on the transition, which the team is looking to get uploaded to the website, https://connection.commerce.gov/collection/2016-17-presidential-transition. The transition team, T16, was formed with representatives from each bureau, along with some Departmental offices. Currently the team is preparing a high-level landing team binder for the incoming administration. The binder will include between 10 and 15 discussion papers covering topics like the renovation and budget. There will also be a listing of other areas that can be briefed such as workforce analytics, the Forum, and unions. Currently waiting to see what the new administration would like to see. The team will be reactive, but will also have information assembled. 

By November 1st, the team would like to have all information ready. They are only going to give information that is publicly available. There will be rooms and offices available for the incoming transition team (may come beginning November 14th). Between November and January 20th, the team will work on providing all information requested. The group that comes in are not Government employees. Once employees begin onboarding, they will get an “owner’s manual” with more information. A member asked if information given now is public, can the Forum see it. Ms. Casias responded that is to be determined. A member asked if Secretary Pritzker has to resign, and it was stated that every critical vacancy has a succession plan, and no agency has designated a Secretarial position. Historically, all heads of agencies tender resignations; however, people can be asked to be held over, but something must be worked out with President-elect’s team. No acting Secretary has been decided yet.


OPM and OMB issued draft guidance on awards spending. This guidance raises caps for performance and special at awards previously held at .96% of aggregate salaries to 1.5%. The guidance has been circulated to members of the National Labor Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations; formal guidance is forthcoming. OPM has also stated that GS and pay banded spending and awards are not to co-mingle with SES/SL/ST spending or awards. Caps previously held to 2010 spending levels (QSIs, 3 R’s spending, group awards) have been lifted.

Agenda item: Other Business

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is approaching the date of initial eligibility (October 2017). On October 25th, the Department of Education will be launching a day-long event to raise awareness for this program. In order to qualify, you must meet the appropriate qualifications (120 qualifying payments on your eligible Federal student loans), and fill out the appropriate paperwork. Mr. Mahoney will circulate information for online chat on this program.

Ms. Schwede asked if anyone wanted to add questions to the FEVS, it needed to be done so soon. Anyone who wants to be on the team is to email Mr. Milman, and a group will be assembled within three weeks. 

Action Items

Item Responsible Party Status Deadline
Respond to metric team with feedback. Forum TBD November 14, 2016
Create agenda item for metric in first 2017 meeting. Frank Milman TBD ASAP (prior to January 25, 2017)
Request update on Enterprise Services business case Ken Kukovich TBD ASAP (prior to January 25, 2017)
Determine if landing binder information can be shared/distributed Lisa Casias TBD ASAP
Email link to Public Service Forgiveness program chat Kevin Mahoney TBD October 25, 2016
Email Frank if you’d like to participate on FEVS team with Laurie Forum Members TBD November 9, 2016