- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

Federal agencies being pushed by Congress to hire qualified people quickly are continually running into the time-consuming security-clearance roadblock that lets highly skilled candidates, such as language specialists, get away.

The agencies also fear repeating mistakes made by the Transportation Security Agency, which got in trouble when it hired tens of thousands of people — some who had been long-time private contractors — only to discover that they were illegal aliens, had serious criminal backgrounds, false identities or all three.

TSA was told to hurry up and hire, then blasted for being in too much of a hurry.

So, despite efforts by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to speed up the hiring process by giving direct-hire (as in get ‘em on board ASAP) authority to various federal agencies or components of departments, the agencies are treading lightly.

The effort to fill vacancies is also being hampered by:

• The large number of people — some of them already working for the government — whose bogus credentials were purchased from degree mills.

• The fact that some agencies won’t accept the top-secret clearance granted by another agency.

Insurance open season

The Federal Employees Group Life Insurance program, FEGLI, will offer a rare opportunity to increase or change current coverage in a September open season, the first since 1999.

Although the program’s premiums tend to be higher than outside firms for younger workers, they are often a good deal for older workers or for those who would never pass a physical. And while feds can lower premiums (by reducing the value of their policy), they rarely get a chance to increase them because open seasons are few and far between.

So, it’s not too early to consider your insurance needs and your budget, and to remember that opportunities to change FEGLIs come a lot less frequently than birthdays.

L Fund

Feds seeking the investing equivalent of an automatic transmission that has self-adjusting speed controls may want to consider the L (for Lifecycle) Fund that will be offered next year by their Thrifts Savings Plan.

The TSP is the 401(k) plan for federal workers — from senators to sanitation engineers — and for military personnel. Currently, it offers funds that cover the large, small-cap and international stock markets (the C, S and I funds), a bond fund (F-Fund) and the ever-popular, conservative-but-safe G-fund. It is invested in U.S. Treasury securities available only to federal-postal-military investors.

Many experts say that too many feds are investing too conservatively (in the G-fund), especially when they have years to go before retirement.

Enter the L-Fund.

It will invest more aggressively the longer away retirement is and will diversify conservatively when retirement is in the near future. Look for it about this time next year.

Mike Causey, senior editor at FederalNewsRadio.com, can be reached at 202/895-5132 or mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

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