DHS CHCO to be appointed by department, not president

President Bush signed a bill into law today that will place the Homeland Security Department’s secretary, rather than the president, in charge of appointing DHS’ top human resources official.

The 2002 Homeland Security Act tasked the president with appointing the department’s chief human capital officer. But as Congress has expressed its concerns about continuity at DHS during what will be the department’s first transition to a new administration, lawmakers have pushed for the department to handle that appointment.

For example, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s report on the legislation stated that during the past five years DHS has had seven CHCOs, three of whom served in an acting capacity for an average of two and half months each.

“This turnover highlights the need for the secretary of homeland security to have the authority and flexibility to designate a career DHS CHCO who can remain at DHS beyond the end of any given presidential administration,” the report states.

President Bush appointed Thomas Cairns to be DHS current CHCO in May.

Paul Schneider, DHS’ deputy secretary, has also expressed his support for giving DHS secretary the authority to appoint a career executive as CHCO.

“Having a career civil servant in that job — especially…at this point in time — somebody that could carry over to the next administration would be absolutely essential, I think, to improve national operations [in the] department,” Schneider said during his May confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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