DHS drops potential pay-for-performance plans

The recently signed continuing resolution blocked any plans for a pay-for-performance personnel system at the Homeland Security Department. DHS said it will drop its human resources management system and convert the 35,000 employees covered by its rules back to the General Schedule personnel system.

The action is in response to the recently signed Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance and Continuing Appropriations Act for fiscal 2009, which also prohibited funding for the new system, said Thomas Cairns, DHS chief human capital officer, in a memo released Oct. 2. The conversion took effect Oct. 1.

“This change will be transparent to most employees, and it should also be noted that no current salary adjustments or bonus decisions will be affected,” he said.

DHS’ personnel system has been controversial. Previously and more widely known as MaxHR, the system consisted of five parts: adverse actions, appeals, labor relations, performance management and a pay section for pay banding, said Larry Orluskie, DHS spokesman.

Court decisions blocked DHS from implementing the rules associated with labor relations. Nevertheless, DHS went forward with putting in place the rules for adverse actions and appeals, but the new law would roll back these rules.

DHS also had begun implementing the performance management component in coordination with an e-performance application. A performance management system must be in place before the department could introduce the pay banding, he said.

DHS’ goal is to continue using the e-performance tool, even if it’s done under the Title 5 rules of the personnel system to which employees have reverted.

“We know from employee surveys that employees need to know what is expected of them and have accountability with managers, and they want to hold on to that,” Orluskie said.

Cairns also notified labor unions representing DHS employees of the change. The American Federation of Government Employees praised the move.

“MaxHR was the first big effort to dismantle the civil service, unions and the GS pay system,” said John Gage, AFGE national president. “This victory ensures that our country still will have a merit-based civil service system that works for federal employees and for the public they serve.”

The National Treasury Employees Union said it had worked for the language in the continuing resolution prohibiting DHS from spending money to operate its new personnel system to make sure that frontline employees would not be moved to an unproven pay-for-performance system.

“The fact that Congress included this funding prohibition in the continuing resolution demonstrates that these proposed rules were a terrible idea for everyone — the agency, its employees and our nation,” said Colleen Kelley, NTEU president.

DHS will continue with its Human Capital Operational Plan, a wider human resources effort to foster employee recruitment and retention, learning and leadership development programs.

“We are well-funded in those programs, and they are in full swing,” Orluskie said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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