Employees at the Homeland Security Department may end up with a
pay structure that looks much like the one they have: the General
That's just one possibility that has evolved from a months-long
process in which employees have played a significant role in
designing HSD's new personnel management structure. On Friday, the
design team responsible for developing personnel reform options
for the civil service system at the Homeland Security Department
presented their findings to a review committee of management and
One of the options included shifting all HSD employees to the
General Schedule system. According to team members, the benefits
of retaining the General Schedule included avoiding disruption
caused by switching to a new system, the General Schedule existing
classification system, its built-in appeal rights and its
“We only have one chance to get this right,” said Jeff Sumberg,
deputy associate director for workforce relations at the Office of
The law granted the new department power to redesign rules in
six personnel areas: hiring, pay and classification, labor
relations, employee discipline, employee appeal rights and
employee evaluation systems. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge
and OPM Director Kay Coles James decided to create teams of
employees and union representatives to aid the design process.
The group of 45 management officials began work in April,
traveling across the country to conduct “town hall meetings” and
focus groups with department employees and gauge their concerns.
The group also consulted with local and state governments, think
tanks and human resource experts, gathering ideas they could bring
back to the committee, which will use the information to develop
proposals that Ridge and James will use to create the department's
Some of the things design team members uncovered during the
past few months included curiosity about paybanding, as well as
wariness about change.
“People really see the current system as working, but if
pressed, then they see ways in which the current system can be
improved,” said Melissa Allen, one of the design team members.
Allen is senior advisor for human resources at Homeland Security.
Performance management was one area that both employees and
managers agreed needed improvement. “They felt agencies were not
doing a good job of holding people accountable,” Allen said.
The design team will continue gathering information and
presenting options to the committee, which is expected to meet
again in October.
“We are following a process that ensures maximum collaboration
with our employees,” said Homeland Security Undersecretary for
Management Janet Hale. “The commitment and hard work have been
Hale sits on the review committee along with American Federal
of Government Employees President Bobby Harnage, National Treasury
Employees Union President Colleen Kelley and National Association
of Agriculture Employees President Michael Randall. Homeland
Security is represented by Secret Service Director Ralph Basham,
administration chief Michael Dorsey, immigration chief Eduardo
Aguirre, Transportation Security Administration Administrator
James Loy and customs chief Robert Bonner. OPM officials on the
review committee include Adviser Steven Cohen, Chief Human Capital
Officer Doris Hausser, and policy officials Ron Sanders and Marta
“Promises were made and I'm very impressed that those promises
were kept,” Harnage said Friday. “Employees are not only in the
room, employees are at the table. We've been true partners.”