DHS human resources system gets facelift
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday will issue its proposal to overhaul the personnel and benefits system, affecting about 110,000 of its employees. The DHS employs a total of 180,000 employees, including customs inspectors, border patrol agents and immigration officers.
DHS officials have been working for the past year to devise a new system, which will significantly change work rules and compensation formulas for rank-and-file civil servants. Under the new system Homeland Security personnel will be paid according to position, productivity, and geographic location of their jobs, said Janet Hale, the department's undersecretary for management. Salary increases will no longer be automatic. Unions will no longer have influence over where employees are assigned, the type of technology they use and other matters. The department's white-collar personnel will be moved out of the 15-grade General Schedule of federal salaries and placed in broader wage levels called 'pay bands.' Employees will be grouped in a dozen occupational clusters. Each group will have four pay bands, depending on levels of expertise.
It will take several years to phase in the system for the entire workforce, beginning with non-military personnel at the U.S. Coast Guard. The DHS plans to have all of its employees under the new management system by Oct. 2005.
Congress relaxed the normal civil service rules when it created the Department of Homeland Security at the request of the Bush administration, which argued it needed the flexibility to quickly deal with terrorist threats. The National Treasury Employees Union and the American Federation of Government Employees are expressing cautious optimism that employee rights will be preserved in the final rule, but it is unclear if the final system might affect employee morale and effectiveness, as the unions claim.
There will be a 30-day comment period before the department develops its final personnel proposal.