US Department of Education Principal Office Functional Statements
Office of Postsecondary Education

Immediate Office of the Assistant Secretary

The Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education administers programs for postsecondary education, both public and private, and serves as the principal adviser to the Secretary on matters affecting postsecondary education. The Assistant Secretary is assisted by a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management and Planning and three Deputy Assistant Secretaries who have leadership and oversight responsibilities for the three major program units in OPE: higher education programs (HEP), international and foreign language education (IFLE) and postsecondary education policy development and implementation (PPI).

The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management and Planning is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the responsibilities of the Management Support Unit and the Administrative Support Unit (Executive Office). The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management and Planning advises the Assistant Secretary on matters related to these two units.

Management Support Unit

The Management Support Unit (MSU) is responsible for operations management. The unit serves as the primary catalyst for developing and implementing effective management practices, continuous improvement processes, and organizational capacity building to align and implement OPE’s Annual Program Performance Plan in accordance with the Department's Strategic Plan. An Organizational Performance Officer, who reports to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management and Planning, directs the MSU.

In performing its responsibilities, the MSU conducts the following functions:


Provides leadership in coordinating OPE’s strategic planning efforts and annual program performance plan. In consultation with the Assistant Secretary and senior managers, develops an OPE-wide strategic plan that integrates policy planning, operations analysis, budget and resource planning, service delivery, and customer information. Analyzes legislative and stakeholder requirements, strategic options, and research results, and coordinates with other OPE and community research entities to integrate findings into OPE's strategic planning activities. Develops the OPE Strategic Monitoring Plan and prepares an annual report on its implementation. Tracks and coordinates the short- and long-term plans for OPE’s three units and informs the Assistant Secretary about mid-year progress, any need for revision of plans, and end-of-year accomplishments.

Budget & Resource Allocation

Prepares and coordinates OPE’s administrative budget including the salary and expenses budget, spending plan, and acquisition plan. Establishes and manages staffing allocations and position ceilings. Coordinates efforts across OPE units to adhere to timelines established in the spending and acquisition plans.

Organizational Performance

Works with OPE’s three units to develop appropriate measures for OPE’s organizational performance review (OPR). Coordinates OPE’s analyses of critical indicators to report on current performance levels; measure progress in meeting organizational goals; and determine whether changes in program administration and/or operations management are warranted. Prepares the annual OPR for OPE.

Continuous Improvement/Innovation

Provides leadership in designing, developing, and assessing alternative management practices that lead to productivity gains, employee engagement, service delivery innovations, and performance accountability. Analyzes stakeholder requirements, strategic options, and research results, and coordinates with OPE program units to integrate findings into OPE’s overall operations management framework.


Serves as the initial liaison and contact point with the Executive Secretariat. Coordinates and provides support to OPE’s program units to respond to control correspondence, and ensure that all mail addressed to the Assistant Secretary or referred by the Secretary is appropriately handled. Provides support to the program units to track inquiries to determine trends and issues of concern to OPE’s various customers and constituencies.

Provides support services to meet external communication needs for the Assistant Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretaries, with writing and editing of speeches, multi-media presentations, documents, electronic publishing, and centralized OPE mailing lists. Develops a variety of materials, publications, and other vehicles for internal communications to ensure OPE staffs are kept apprised of OPE initiatives, priorities, and accomplishments. Ensures that OPE’s material on the Internet and Department Intranet is substantive and up-to-date.


Knowledge and Data Management to Improve Program Operations

Coordinates with the three program units to facilitate and guide the collection, organization, interpretation, reporting, and use of data and other information from external and internal sources to inform program management, program performance reporting, organizational performance reporting, operations analyses, and post implementation learning.

Human Capital Management

Coordinates management evaluations, manpower utilization, and organizational planning studies with the three major units in OPE. Develops and implements a comprehensive staff on-boarding, training, and professional development program for strategic employee competency gaps. Identifies key issues and topics to be addressed, designs strategies for specific staff groups as well as all staff, and identifies and secures trainers and presenters.

Grant Administration

Establishes a standard review and decision-making system for key grant and contract matters, prior to award, which permits the Assistant Secretary to make informed program decisions. Facilitates the development and review of Annual Spending Plans. Provides support, as needed, to HEP and IFLA, for the clearance of grant program announcements, grant competition technical review plans, grant slates, monitoring plans, and risk assessments; and in preparing appropriate Information Collection packages). Organizes training and technical assistance to program office staff on the use of Departmental grants systems, policies, and procedures. Develops and updates OPE-specific forms and templates that program office staff can download and customize. Coordinates with the Departmental Grants Policy and Oversight Staff to ensure consistency in grants and contracts policies across OPE and maintains the OPE grants procedures manual. Supports fiscal monitoring of OPE grants and provides appropriate training to program officers. Coordinates the regulatory agenda across OPE’s three units to ensure that the priorities for the agenda are consistent with the objectives of the Assistant Secretary. Develops the OPE grant monitoring plan and prepares an annual report on its implementation. Develops and maintains, in codified form, a policy precedent file of decisions relating to OPE grant program activities.

Nonregulatory guidance for discretionary grant programs

Ensures that the nonregulatory guidance for discretionary grant programs developed by HEP and IFLE are coordinated and consistent with the objectives of the Assistant Secretary and in-line with the Department’s priorities and procedures for discretionary grant programs.

Resolution and Close Out of Internal GAO and OIG Audits

Coordinates the review and approval of internal audit findings from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) that are assigned to OPE for resolution, excluding audits assigned to FSA. Improves the capacity of OPE to implement an efficient audit resolution process.


Consolidates information from the three units to develop a master calendar to help with the coordination of critical program administration and operation management activities. Assists program units, as needed, to track grant and contract administration timelines.

Executive Office

The Executive Office, headed by an Executive Officer, provides general administrative and management support services to the Office of Postsecondary Education and the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). Under the direction of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management and Planning, the office establishes procedures, devotes sufficient resources, and clarifies lines of authority and accountability to ensure that the administrative service needs of both OCTAE and OPE are met in a timely and consistent manner.

The office provides technical assistance to the Assistant Secretary, Deputy Assistant Secretaries, and program directors in both OPE and OCTAE on general administrative and management issues. The office serves as an interface and liaison with management and operations offices in the Department (e.g., Office of Management, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of the Chief Information Officer) to ensure that the Department’s management and operations policies are appropriately implemented.

The Executive Office

  • Assists in formulating administrative budget requests and justifications, including the salary and expenses budget, spending plan, and acquisition plan;
  • Executes program and administrative budgets;
  • Manages and coordinates travel, printing, contracts and procurements;
  • Manages the employee travel and purchase card program;
  • Tracks grants administration functions, including monitoring plans and risk assessments;
  • Monitors internal controls;
  • Manages select contracts that support office-wide operations;
  • Manages and coordinates human resource services;
  • Manages staffing allocations and position ceilings;
  • Manages and coordinates an employee awards program;
  • Manages employee payroll matters;
  • Supports workforce and succession planning;
  • Monitors leadership development activities;
  • Negotiates personnel related matters, in conjunction with the Union, Labor Relations, and other Department Offices;
  • Supports the implementation of management evaluations, manpower utilization studies, and organizational planning studies;
  • Develops and monitors an affirmative action and equal employment opportunity programs and serves as the EEO Liaison;
  • Manages and coordinates employee performance agreements;
  • Provides administrative services including space and logistics;
  • Manages control correspondence;
  • Manages and coordinates Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) responses;
  • Coordinates and manages personnel, physical and information technology security;
  • Coordinates and manages information technology and telecommunications services;
  • Manages information technology and telecommunications assets;
  • Manages business continuity plans;
  • Manages and evaluates progress in meeting records management policies and procedures pertaining to OPE-administered programs, and
  • Manages general administrative and support services.


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Last Modified: 01/13/2015