Attention to Customer Service Yields a Better TSP Web Site
By Stephen Barr
Friday, May 28, 2004; Page B02
In case you missed it, the Web site for the Thrift Savings Plan has been spruced up.
The TSP has rearranged icons on its home page (www.tsp.gov) to make it easier to find topics of interest and to emphasize links to financial statements, account transactions and share prices for the plan's five funds.
The 401(k)-type plan also is providing new information for participants, such as why the TSP does not have "ticker symbols" for its funds (one reason is that they are not publicly traded).
The changes this week are among the first in a series planned for the TSP site, which, of course, is one of the more useful Web sites for government employees.
The site also is an increasingly valuable way for the plan to save money, especially on mailing costs, and to communicate with its more than 3.3 million members.
The Web site changes and efforts to provide better educational information to TSP participants are priorities of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, chaired by Andrew M. Saul, a Bush administration appointee.
Saul has shown an interest in improved TSP operations from his first days as chairman, but the board got a jolt last summer when a new record-keeping system got off to a rocky start and prompted complaints from numerous participants and some members of Congress.
At several monthly board meetings, Saul and new members Alejandro M. Sanchez and Gordon J. Whiting have made it clear that they are interested in creating a robust Web site for government workers, especially members of the armed forces, who serve worldwide and often have trouble keeping up to date on investments and benefits.
As part of that effort, the TSP recently posted "fund information sheets" that give participants a snapshot of each fund and a chart showing each fund's rates of returns since its inception.
For example, the information sheet on the C Fund tells participants that it tracks the Standard & Poor's 500 index of common stocks, lists the top 10 companies in that index and shows what the C Fund has returned since its start in January 1988.
In addition to the Web changes, the board has posted notices signaling that it may hire three new executives. One would focus on "participant services" and would serve as a chief operating officer.
Members of Congress also are showing an interest in improving the TSP's educational efforts. Last week, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced a bill that would require the board and the Office of Personnel Management to develop a "financial literacy strategy and education strategy" to help prepare government employees for retirement.
'Pay Parity' on Track
House and Senate negotiators did not include a provision in the fiscal 2005 budget resolution calling for "pay parity" in setting raises for the civil service and the military next year. But parity advocates say the omission should not be taken as a bad sign, because the pay raise decision will be made this year by the Appropriations committees.
Just to make sure, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) engaged Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa), the House Budget Committee chairman, in a brief floor discussion on the issue last week. Davis pointed out that the House voted for parity raises in March, 299 to 126, and Nussle acknowledged that the vote represented the position of the House on next year's raise.
President Bush's budget recommended a 1.5 percent raise next year for the civil service and a 3.5 percent raise for the military.
Stan Kaczmarczyk, director of the General Services Administration's Innovative Workplace Division, will be the guest on "FEDtalk" at 11 a.m. today on federalnewsradio.com.
Holly Wise, secretariat director for the Global Development Alliance at the Agency for International Development, will be the guest on "The Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).
"Telework: An Agency Requirement?" will be the topic of discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).
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