DHS sticks to pay system goals

But OPM says the department isn’t moving fast enough

It’s shaping up to be a busy summer at the Homeland Security Department as officials plan to push forward with personnel-management improvements that they hope will bring DHS’ human resources system into the 21st century. 

The bulk of the effort still lies ahead, according to a recently released assessment by the Office of Personnel Management. In the report, OPM criticized DHS for not being further along in implementing its alternative personnel system.

OPM officials say having a strong system is essential for DHS, which was formed in 2002 by the merger of 22 federal entities. DHS is trying to bring those cultures together by way of a new system that has five basic components: classification, pay, adverse actions/appeals, labor relations and performance-based management.

DHS officials have opted to focus on the performance-based management component first, said Paul Schneider, the agency’s undersecretary of management, during testimony at a May 10 Senate subcommittee hearing on DHS management issues.

The agency has trained more than 3,000 supervisors to develop performance measures and administer the new component, Schneider said. Efforts to continue expanding coverage are steadily moving forward, he added.

“This program is an integral part in the department’s strategy for building a single, unified DHS,” Schneider said.

In its assessment report, OPM praised DHS’ plan for implementing the
performance-based program but criticized the agency for not moving forward with the other components.

“DHS should have taken the opportunity to implement the remaining systems,” the report states.

The report also criticizes DHS’ slow progress on implementation. The performance-based management program covered fewer than 10,000 of the agency’s nearly 110,000 civil service employees as of April.

Furthermore, the report cites DHS’ poor showing in OPM’s most recent Federal Human Capital Survey. “Employee commitment to the organization has decreased since the performance management system was implemented,” the report states.

Given the slow progress, OPM recommended that DHS create and dedicate resources to a program management office to ensure faster progress. “This would provide higher visibility and keep senior leaders engaged while sending a message about the importance of the effort,” the report states.

Marta Brito Perez, DHS’ chief human capital officer, disagreed with some of the report’s findings in an April 17 letter to OPM Director Linda Springer. Perez said the report did not recognize DHS’ extensive work in preparing for the implementation of the personnel system’s other components.

“The conclusions…create the incorrect impression that DHS has done little to prepare for the implementation of the remaining areas” of the new personnel system, Perez said.

DHS is committed to moving forward with the implementation effort in the next several months, Schneider said. During that process, the agency will keep in mind one of the few bright spots in the Federal Human Capital Survey: employees’ passion for the agency’s mission. Nearly 89 percent of DHS employees said they believe the work they do is important.

“This is a strong foundation upon which to build and improve,” Schneider said.

Tarallo is a freelance writer in Washington.
OPM gives DOD thumbs upThe Defense Department has had its share of management challenges in recent years, but the agency fared better than the Homeland Security Department in a recent assessment of its new pay system by the Office of Personnel Management.
The OPM report reviewed DOD’s progress in implementing its version of an alternative personnel system, the National Security Personnel System (NSPS), which includes a performance-based, market-sensitive pay system.

DOD received authority from Congress to create NSPS in 2004. The agency created an NSPS Program Executive Office to guide the implementation. As of April, about 112,000 of DOD’s 700,000 civilian employees were covered by NSPS.

OPM praised DOD’s implementation in the report. “DOD has structured a well-organized and phased implementation approach,” the report states. Establishment of the PEO has been key to implementation success, the report adds.

In response, Mary Lacey, program executive officer for NSPS, said key stakeholders would carefully review the report.

“The report’s main value to us is transparency and affirmation of the approach we have taken to implement the system,” Lacey said in a letter to OPM Director Linda Springer.
— Mark Tarallo

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group