Officials to review DHS personnel options

Homeland Security officials expect to deliver their final report on the department's personnel policies by mid-November.

A study of options for a new personnel system at the Homeland Security Department will be finished within two weeks, said Steve Cohen, senior advisor for homeland security at the Office of Personnel Management. He was testifying today before the House Government Reform committee on Civil Service and Agency Organization's subcommittee.

The design team and the senior review team — which includes officials from the administration and federal worker unions — assumed that the new department needs a personnel system that will do a better job of responding to performance measures and time-critical needs, such as shifting employees.

Although the report from the senior review team will include 52 options for managing workers, the details will be left up to Tom Ridge, DHS secretary, and Kay Coles James, director of the Office of Personnel Management. For example, pay banding is one form of pay-for-performance, but there are multiple ways to put pay banding in place, Cohen said.

He said the report would present a wide range of mechanisms that provide a high-level structure. "These options, really, they're intended to be conceptual in nature," Cohen said.

Once the proposed workforce policies are released to the public, agency officials will step up their meetings with union leaders and other employee organizations, said Ronald James, DHS' chief human capital officer.

The inclusive review process could benefit DHS as officials make other major changes in organization and policy to better integrate the 22 agencies that make up the department, said Colleen Kelley, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

However, Kelly and John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, expressed concern about the lack of details, and pressed for administration officials to strongly consider options that focus on modifying and enhancing the current General Schedule system rather than completely replacing it, particularly on the pay-for-performance issue.

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