DHS budget slices $23M from HR system

The House and Senate have agreed to cut spending on the Homeland Security Department’s new human resources management system by $23 million in fiscal 2006, according to a congressional conference report issued Sept. 30.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 that created DHS authorized the department to create a new human resources information system, called MaxHR. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff has pushed for MaxHR to attract top employees and give managers more flexibility in assigning them to jobs where they are needed.

MaxHR would support a controversial personnel system in which employees would be paid based on performance rather than the 15-grade General Schedule pay scale that federal agencies have used for 50 years.

The National Treasury Employees Union and other unions have opposed MaxHR because of the pay-for-performance issue. They also are fighting against MaxHR regulations that would strip DHS employees of many rights and unions of most of their influence in DHS.

The conference members agreed to spend $30 million on MaxHR, down from $53 million proposed in both the House and Senate bills.

The money comes from the budget for DHS’ Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer, which saw its overall budget decline to $38.9 million from the $62 million in the House and Senate bills. The balance of the money outside MaxHR, $8.9 million, will go toward salaries and expenses.

A provision retained from the Senate bill requires DHS to submit a status report to Congress about the progress it has made in implementing MaxHR.

The status report will include the money the program needs and has available for each program year. It will also list annual expenditures and contract obligations for each contractor and the purpose of each contract.

Representatives of a union representing 14,000 employees in U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a component of DHS, welcomed the rollback in MaxHR funds.

“The decision of the conference committee on the DHS appropriations bill recognizes that funding the troubled MaxHR system should take a back seat to other more pressing DHS priorities,” including helping recovery efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Colleen Kelly, president of NTEU, said in a statement.

Kelly said she supported the requirement for a status report because her union questions the need for DHS’ $175 million contract with Northrop Grumman to implement MaxHR.


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