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  Daily Briefing  
July 25, 2003

Homeland Security may retain standard pay system

By Tanya N. Ballard

Employees at the Homeland Security Department may end up with a pay structure that looks much like the one they have: the General Schedule system.

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 union officials.

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 performance-based features.

“We only have one chance to get this right,” said Jeff Sumberg, deputy associate director for workforce relations at the Office of Personnel Management.

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 personnel system.

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 phenomenal.”

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 Brito Perez.

“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.”

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  • At DHS, the Bush team and unions are actually getting along   (07/01/03)
  • New department begins pay and personnel overhaul   (04/01/03)

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