House Passes Measure to Streamline DHS Offices, Boost Employee Morale
Bill would create clearer career path for DHS employees.
A bill aimed at improving the dismal morale at the Homeland Security Department passed the House unanimously on Tuesday, moving forward what would be the first major structural reform to DHS since it was created in 2002.
The DHS Headquarters Reform and Improvement Act received bipartisan support from lawmakers who said the measure makes the department leaner and more efficient. The bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, would eliminate some top-level staff and offices no longer deemed necessary.
“This important, bipartisan legislation reforms and streamlines DHS headquarters so it can more effectively focus on its core mission of better protecting national security,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, the bill’s author, said on the House floor. “At the same time, this bill saves millions in taxpayer dollars and reins-in sprawling, unnecessary bureaucracy.”
The bill would also broaden the responsibilities of the department’s chief human capital officer, tasking that office with developing strategic workforce planning efforts and performance measures to evaluate the plans. The CHCO would also develop a career path framework and opportunities for “leader development.”
Each DHS component, in consultation with the CHCO, would also be required to create a five-year workforce strategy, which would include a determination on the proper balance of federal employees versus contractors. The strategy would lay out hiring projections, current and anticipated skill gaps, required training, recruitment and retention needs and the anticipated cost of replacing employees who leave due to retirement or “other attrition.”
At a markup of the bill last month, members of the House Homeland Security Committee noted that DHS once again ranked dead last in satisfaction scores on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, and expressed hope their bill would help reverse that trend. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said he was disappointed by the survey results, and he would push forward with morale-boosting efforts.
One way committee members identified to accomplish that goal was to rotate employees throughout the department. The 2002 law creating DHS implemented a rotation program, but the department has phased it out.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., said reinstating the program would provide “great potential for fostering a deeper commitment to DHS” among the workforce. She added that and other elements of the bill would strengthen Johnson’s “unity of effort” initiative.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said he was pleased the House came together on a bipartisan basis.
Lawmakers expressed “support for Secretary Johnson’s efforts at tackling challenges that have, at times, undermined the department’s efforts to effectively carry out its critical missions and programs.” He noted the bill would improve the acquisitions process and bring the disparate components together.
The bill would also require a review of the size, experience level and location of DHS personnel, which would include recommendations for how to “enhance efficiencies.” McCaul said the department, and management in particular, has become “bloated and unwieldy.”