The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has removed two high-risk mission critical occupations (MCO) from its governmentwide skills gap list: auditor and economist.

Despite 86 percent of Federal agencies making efforts in these two areas during OPM’s Closing Skills Gap Initiative from 2016 to 2020, acquisition, human resource specialist, and cybersecurity remain critical roles that need more recruitment and retention within the Federal government.

“The Office of Personnel Management, in partnership with the Chief Human Capital Officer’s Council, worked over the last four years with CHCO Act agencies and Occupational Leaders to close agency-specific and Governmentwide skills gaps in high risk mission critical occupations,” OPM Director, Kiran Ahuja, wrote in an Oct. 27 memo.

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Ahuja continued, “though we acknowledge there is still work to do and there will always be skills gaps, agency and Governmentwide Occupational Leaders should be applauded for their success.”

During those four years, OPM worked with agency experts to develop and implement a methodology that would lead to an institutionalized approach for mitigating skills gaps:

  • A data-driven approach to identify high risk MCOs;
  • A strategic action plan to provide a roadmap to success;
  • Defining measurable targets; and
  • Continuous monitoring through quarterly reporting and reviews.

Twenty-one Federal agencies implemented this methodology and established a process going forward to continuously monitor and mitigate the three remaining skills gaps.


To help build a modern Federal cybersecurity workforce, the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Strategy was developed with five essential elements:

  • America’s Cybersecurity Workforce;
  • Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure;
  • National Cyber Strategy;
  • Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act; and
  • Modernize IT & Developing a Workforce for the 21st Century

More than 42,500 Federal cybersecurity and IT professionals were hired during the four-year Closing Skills Gap Initiative. According to the OPM memo, in October 2021, cyber jobs accounted for seven percent of the Federal workforce.

“Though the Cybersecurity [Federal Actions Skills Teams] made significant progress, there is still work to do. OPM is recommending cybersecurity remain a high-risk functional area,” the official report says.

The agency began the current Closing Skills Gap cycle for the remaining three MCOs in quarter two of fiscal year 2021. The cycle will end on Dec. 31, 2025.

“OPM is excited and proud of the efforts that have already occurred and is looking forward to the next cycle of this initiative,” the report said.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.