Bush nominee promises management reforms at DHS

The Homeland Security Department should have a single financial management system and a special office to track the effectiveness of department programs, President Bush's nominee to oversee management at the new department said Thursday. Janet Hale, the nominee for management undersecretary at the new department, outlined an ambitious agenda for management reform at her Senate confirmation hearing. She said that administrative reforms would improve security on the frontlines and reassured lawmakers that federal employee unions would be consulted as officials design a new personnel system for the department.

"I have met with senior union officials and pledged to them that they will be involved," Hale told Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

Hale also said the department would soon provide Congress with a report, which was due Feb. 24, outlining ways to simplify the various pay and benefits systems currently used by the 22 agencies shifting into the new department. "The status of the plan is that it is close, and I think it will be up here in a few days," Hale said in response to a question from Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, who asked why the report was late.

Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, told Government Executive Wednesday that Congress would not penalize the department for missing this deadline.

"There's a short honeymoon period where such minor transgressions will be overlooked, but a pattern of missed deadlines obviously would not be acceptable," Cox said.

Hale outlined her management objectives in written responses to questions from members of the committee. She said she would craft a single financial management system at the department and create an office to conduct program reviews of department initiatives.

"I would establish a program analysis and evaluation unit within the budget office to establish performance measures, collect performance data, analyze the data and help senior management create required action plans to improve performance," she said in written responses.

Hale helped create a single financial management system at the Health and Human Services Department when she served as assistant secretary for budget technology and finance in 2002. She served as an assistant secretary at the Transportation Department during the Reagan administration, and also logged time at the Office of Management and Budget during the administration of George H.W. Bush.

Hale also pledged to comply with the requirements of the 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act, which requires agencies to compile annual audits.

The Governmental Affairs Committee also considered the nominations of Clark Kent Ervin to be the Inspector General of the Homeland Security Department, and Linda Springer to the new Controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Ervin, who served as Inspector General at the State Department from 2001 to 2003, said he would seek to protect whistleblowers at the Homeland Security Department. He will supervise a staff of 475 investigators drawn from IG shops at agencies moving into the new department, including 200 investigators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Springer will replace Mark Everson, who served as Controller as well as Deputy Director for Management at OMB. Everson is the White House nominee to be Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

Sen. Collins said the Senate would vote on the nominations next week.

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