Questions are being raised about an OPM system failure that affected 70K job applications

Readers of FCW are having strong reactions to the stories on the Office of Personnel Management's system failure that resulted in 70,000 job applications going unprocessed.

Reader reaction is still going strong on the 70,000 job applications affected by the Aug. 7 to Aug. 9 malfunction of the Office of Personnel Management application processing system attached to

At FCW, we published an exclusive initial report on the problems Aug. 15, followed by another news article with official confirmation from OPM on Aug. 17. On Aug. 19, we published additional details obtained from an agency official knowledgeable about the events.

We are continuing to investigate what happened to OPM’s USA Staffing system that caused failures in performance, what happened to the job applications, and what actions were taken by OPM and other agencies to resolve the problem.

Questions are starting to arise about the handling of the incident, based on concerns raised by readers: Were all affected job seekers informed in a timely fashion, and did they have an opportunity to resubmit their applications? Did OPM get the word out quickly to the 54 federal agencies that use USA Staffing so that job application deadlines could be extended, and were the agencies able to follow through on extending the deadlines? Do federal job seekers feel they lost out on federal opportunities because of the incident?

Some readers suggest there are lingering problems. For example, an FCW reader submitted this comment Aug. 18: “My bureau never got notice of this problem until today, this morning. The phone is ringing constantly, and people are so mad, saying they are suing us, filing an EEO complaint, calling their congressman, writing the president and other threats. My manager says that we may have to re-announce every job to avoid lawsuits and wishes that the department had notified us when they got the message, but everyone was on vacation in August.”

Another reader said our Aug. 15 story on the system malfunction and lost applications was unhelpful because a deadline had already passed for resubmission.

Please keep in mind that FCW is a news organization, and we rely on officials and readers to provide tips on unexpected system failures such as this. Although the malfunctions and downtime occurred from Aug. 7 to Aug. 11, there was no public announcement from OPM about the problems until Aug. 16, to the best of my knowledge. Basically, no one was talking to the news media about the problems. Some job seekers made comments on a Facebook page, but apparently that page did not draw wide attention.

I learned about the USA Staffing malfunction through a reader who sent me an e-mail message Aug. 14. I am extremely grateful to that reader for bringing it to my attention so that it could be reported as news. An OPM official provided me with an official statement on Aug. 16.

But that still begs a few questions: Should there have been a public announcement prior to Aug. 16? Were all the 54 agencies that used OPM’s malfunctioning system able to adequately extend deadlines to accommodate the job seekers whose applications were affected?

I think everyone, especially in challenging economic times, can relate to the frustrations of one of the job seekers on the USAJobs Facebook page about learning that the USA Staffing system was not working.

“I’ve missed three close-outs due to the outage,” the user wrote. “Help desk sent me an e-mail but no status.”

We would love to hear from more of our readers about what happened with their applications and how this has affected them.

Follow Alice Lipowicz on Twitter at @AliceLipowicz.