Point: A chance for collaboration

The mission of the Homeland Security Department is to secure Americans at home and protect the American people. We cannot afford to fail.

There is no asset more important to this mission than our employees, who work tirelessly to make air travel safer; secure our land and sea borders; protect us from dangerous weapons; facilitate lawful trade, travel and immigration; protect our government officials; safeguard our financial systems; and prepare first responders for emergencies.

With the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Congress granted DHS an extraordinary opportunity to create a modernized human resources system for responding to the needs of our mission and continuing to attract and retain the most talented and motivated employees that our country has to offer. Our current system has many positive features, but

it was designed for a different time and is no longer sufficient to meet our needs. The world has changed, jobs have changed, missions have changed and it is essential that our HR system change to support this new environment.

When we began creating our new system a year ago, we were committed to involving employees in the process because we wanted to ensure that our new system met their needs and those of the department. What transpired has been an unprecedented collaborative effort.

DHS Secretary Tom Ridge and Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James appointed a design team composed of 80 department employees, department supervisors, union representatives and OPM staff. They were assigned the task of identifying a range of options for a new HR system.

Ridge and James also appointed a Senior Review Committee to guide the work of the design team

and review the options they developed. The committee included DHS and OPM leaders and the presidents

of the three largest unions representing DHS

employees.

The design team and the Senior Review Committee worked together to develop guiding principles for the department's new HR system.

These principles stated that DHS officials must ensure that the new system is mission-centered,

performance-focused and contemporary. It must generate respect and trust, must be based on statutory merit system principles and must comply with all other applicable laws. We believe that our proposed regulations fulfill these guiding principles and the promise of the Homeland Security Act to establish a system that strengthens our ability to protect the United States.

We continue to seek input and encourage all employees, unions and the general public to review and provide feedback on our proposed regulations. The deadline for submitting comments is March 22.

The collaborative process has been instrumental thus far and will be even more critical as we move closer to finalizing the proposed regulations.

I am confident that our new HR system will lead to a stronger department that is better equipped

to meet our mission of securing and protecting

America.

Hale is undersecretary for management at the Homeland Security Department.

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