DHS reorganization won’t stop implementation of personnel rules

A plan announced Wednesday that would overhaul the Homeland Security Department will have no immediate effect on the Aug. 1 implementation of new personnel regulations at DHS. However, officials are not ruling out changes down the line.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff unveiled a broad plan for reorganizing DHS based on a review of the department's policies and structure he commissioned shortly after being sworn in.

One facet of Chertoff's six-pronged plan includes improving "DHS stewardship, particularly with stronger financial, human resource, procurement and information technology management," he said.

"DHS employees also deserve an organization that provides top-notch professional career training, an organization that actually enables individuals to broaden these experiences by working in other components of the department without impeding their career paths. DHS should reward the strongest performers and team players," Chertoff said.

The secretary's plan includes changing titles and compensation for some top managers. The reason for the changes, according to DHS Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson, is to clear up confusion. "There were some imbalances in the operating components about the compensation levels for people with different jobs," Jackson said.

The proposal, however, will not slow plans to begin implementing new personnel regulations in the next few weeks, according to DHS spokesman Larry Orluski.

"I don't believe the Aug. 1 implementation timeline will be affected at all because that is the labor relations phase," Orluski said, and not the pay-for-performance component, which will be implemented later. "The only thing that could change [the first phase] is…the injunction."

A group of unions led by the National Treasury Employees Union, filed an injunction last month asking a judge to stop the Aug. 1 implementation until legal disputes are worked out. Issues raised by the unions include a reduction of independent oversight for DHS disciplinary procedures and an alleged failure to meet employee collective bargaining rights. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Thursday.

While the proposal would not stop the initial implementation, it could slow the start-up of the pay-for-performance portion, Orluski said. Agencies greatly affected by the reorganization may introduce that phase later than currently scheduled, he said.

NTEU President Colleen Kelley said Wednesday that she wanted to hear details of Chertoff's plans for training, career development and employee rewards, and is seeking a meeting with the secretary to discuss them.

Kelley said, however, that there was "little recognition of the impact that a pending overhaul of DHS personnel rules is having on the day-to-day performance." She said the personnel regulations "will diminish the rights of DHS employees," and are "not necessary to secure the rights and safety of Americans."

Chertoff said he would share more details with employees "in the weeks and months to come."

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