The Inefficiency Bunker

It’s housed 230 feet underground in an old mine in rural Pennsylvania. The official government paperwork it processes follows a long and winding procedure that takes more than three months to complete. And despite all of today’s advanced computing technology, its operations rely on physical paper records and manual data entry. This is the Office of Personnel Management, which The Washington Post calls “one of the weirdest workplaces in the U.S. government.” It is the department that processes the retirement papers of government employees. From the time the office receives a retiree’s papers to the time it issues a retirement check, the process takes about 61 days. That’s not a day less than it took back in 1977.

(Image via Shutterstock)
(Image via Shutterstock)
(Image via Shutterstock)

It’s housed 230 feet underground in an old mine in rural Pennsylvania. The official government paperwork it processes follows a long and winding procedure that takes more than three months to complete. And despite all of today’s advanced computing technology, its operations rely on physical paper records and manual data entry. This is the Office of Personnel Management, which The Washington Post calls “one of the weirdest workplaces in the U.S. government.”

The subject of the Post’s first article in a series examining federal system failures, the Office of Personnel Management is the department that processes the retirement papers of government employees. From the time the office receives a retiree’s papers to the time it issues a retirement check, the process takes about 61 days. That’s not a day less than it took back in 1977. “The need for automation was clear—in 1981,” James W. Morrison Jr., office overseer under President Ronald Reagan, told the Post.

Now, in 2014, we’re still waiting for a solution. As the office’s processes of information intake and storage remain decades outdated—sometimes as archaic and counterintuitive as moving files from digital storage to paper printouts—its employees are struggling to keep up and make do. It’s a prime example of our government’s bureaucratic flaws and the urgent need for reform. Because if we’re using tech to design driverless cars, build 3D printers, and connect everything to everything else, we should be able to apply it to something as simple as organizing our paperwork—if only we can cut through all the red tape.

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