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Ronald J. James

Homeland Security
Ronald J. James

Chief Human Capital Officer

All eyes have been on Ronald J. James since he was named chief human capital officer at the Homeland Security Department in May 2003. Under the 2002 Homeland Security Act, which created the department, Congress allowed Homeland Security to develop a new system for hiring, pay, performance management and labor relations for its nearly 200,000 employees. DHS' human capital management system, called MaxHR, could become a model for governmentwide reform.

James and his team designed MaxHR to link performance expectations with the department's strategic goals, tie pay to performance measures, facilitate leadership development and continuous learning, and help the department recruit a skilled and diverse workforce. The centerpiece of the plan is to replace the General Schedule pay system with an evaluation system that distributes raises and bonuses to employees based on job performance instead of tenure.

James has spoken often about the importance of getting employee support for personnel reform, but thus far his proposals have proved highly controversial. Federal labor unions filed a lawsuit earlier this year to block the implementation of MaxHR, objecting to limitations on collective bargaining and other rules. In mid-August they won a ruling from a federal judge halting implementation, and the department is considering whether to appeal.

Such disputes are familiar territory for James; prior to his appointment as CHCO, he was a partner with the international law firm Squire, Sanders and Dempsey LLP, where he represented management in labor and employment issues. Earlier in his career, James served as an administrator at the Labor Department, an assistant general counsel at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and an attorney at the Transportation Department.