Administration delays DHS, DOD personnel system changes

BALTIMORE — The Bush administration's overhaul of personnel systems at the Homeland Security and Defense departments has run into delays, and in the case of civilian workers at the Pentagon, it will not take place until after the presidential election.

President Bush has argued that he needs a 21st-century personnel system that provides flexibility to deal with terrorism. DHS officials originally planned a September release for the final regulations for paying workers based on performance instead of seniority. The change would also limit labor representation and appeals of personnel decisions.

But at the first Office of Personnel Management Federal Workforce Conference here today, officials said the DHS plan has been delayed at least a few weeks. Melissa Allen, senior human resources adviser at DHS, told attendees there have been "some hiccups."

There will be a meeting Sept. 10 with top officials to discuss what the final regulations should be, after which they could be issued at any time, Allen said.

The upcoming election is not being used as a "bellwether" for releasing or holding up the new rules, she said. In fact, she said the rules are likely to be released before the Nov. 2 presidential election.

However, Mary Lacey, program executive officer for the military's National Security Personnel System, said Pentagon officials' plans are moving slowly, and they do not intend to release proposed personnel rules until this winter.

Working groups are evaluating more than 200 options for the 650,000 DOD civilian employees who are represented by 41 unions, Lacey said.

"We feel very strongly that the existing system is inadequate," she said.

But Brian DeWyngaert of the American Federation of Government Employees told conference attendees that the proposals for both DHS and DOD employees are "anti-employee."

"They are proposals that remove fairness and due process from the workforce," DeWyngaert said.

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