Personnel reform, but no layoffs, envisioned for new department

No federal employees would be laid off if a 170,000-person Department of Homeland Security is created by consolidating dozens of existing federal offices, the Bush administration said in documents obtained by Government Executive Thursday.

But the new department's leaders should be given much more authority over personnel than most current federal managers have, the administration said.

"The president's top priority is building the best possible organization for homeland security," the administration said in the documents. "We anticipate the initial workforce to remain roughly as it is."

The administration went on to call for "significant flexibility" for department officials in "hiring processes, compensation systems and practices, and performance management to recruit, retain, and develop a motivated, high-performance and accountable workforce."

"When a job needs to be done the department should be able to fill it promptly, at a fair compensation level, and with the right person," the administration said. "Likewise, employees should receive recognition for their achievements, but in cases where performance falls short, should be held accountable."

Federal union leaders have generally opposed giving such broad authority to federal managers, arguing that existing rules in the federal personnel system are aimed at protecting employees from undue political influence and ensuring that the most qualified people are chosen for federal jobs.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said she is concerned that the administration might try to limit union power in the new department. "There's been no indication that that would be done, but I don't dismiss the concern either," Kelley said.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, in comments to reporters Thursday morning, said the administration doesn't expect the government workforce to grow as a result of the reorganization either. "Keep in mind, if you take 100 workers from Department X and put those 100 workers in Department Y, you still have 100 workers. They've been reorganized," Fleischer said. "But it is not an addition to the government, because you're working with the same, essentially, group of people."

The Bush administration also called for granting the new Homeland Security Secretary special procurement powers "to encourage innovation and rapid development and operation of critical technologies vital to securing the homeland."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.