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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

TSP Tech Turnover


The Thrift Savings Plan's technology chief is retiring from the agency Friday after a nine-year run that included a massive overhaul of the plan's automated systems.

Agency officials credited Lawrence Stiffler with helping the TSP recover from a failed technology contract with American Management Systems. Mark Haggerty, who has been working with Stiffler during the past year, will assume the director of automated systems role. Stiffler and TSP Executive Director Gary Amelio promised a smooth transition.

During a meeting of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board last week, board members lavished praise on Stiffler.

Haggerty "has got a big pair of shoes to fill," said Board Chairman Andrew Saul. "A great thank you, you've done a great job."

Under Stiffler, the TSP implemented a new automated system that allows TSP participants to regularly check and update their accounts. That system has come with some controversy-TSP officials have criticized the National Finance Center for delays in implementing the current automated system. The NFC handles some administrative tasks for the Thrift plan.

Last year, however, an NFC employee leaked an e-mail exchange between Stiffler and Gilbert Hawk, director of NFC's Information Resources Management Division. The e-mails suggested the responsibility for the delay was shared by both agencies.

During last week's meeting, however, board members focused on the final system that Stiffler has delivered.

"You've done a wonderful job," said board member Gordon Whiting, adding that Stiffler has created "a wonderful platform to take us to the next step."

Saul told the board that he could "go on for 15 minutes talking about what's been accomplished" under Stiffler.

The TSP serves as a 401-(k) style retirement plan for federal employees. It has about 3.5 million members and more than $150 billion in assets.

Against Real Estate Fund

Amelio told the board last week that he had recently met with Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, to share his thoughts on the TSP and the proposed introduction of a real estate investment fund in the Thrift plan. The National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts-and many in Congress-have supported the introduction of a REIT fund. The TSP board and agency officials oppose such a fund.

Voinovich serves as the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia. That subcommittee oversees the TSP.

Amelio said that he told Voinovich of the opposition to the REIT fund and while the senator did not reveal his opinion on the proposed fund, he listened carefully to the board's points.

Saul thanked Amelio for carrying the board's message to Voinovich.

"Before you do something like this, you should think it through very, very carefully," Saul said. "This is not just something to take lightly, adding new plans."

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