Homeland Security: An Unhappy Agency for All

Historically and for reasons of urgency it would appear that much of the decision making within the Department’s headquarters has been made by a core group of trusted appointees.–HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISORY COUNCIL REPORT OF THE CULTURE TASK FORCE January 2007 (p. 6). Chaired by Herb Kelleher – Executive Chairman, Southwest Airlines Co.

By Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee
Congressional Record
May 9, 2007 (H4662)

The flexibility we originally granted in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 has not worked. That is why I offered an amendment repealing the DHS human resources personnel system.

The Department has abused the flexibility given by Congress. They have created a personnel system that eviscerates employee due process rights and puts in serious jeopardy the agency’s ability to recruit and retain a workforce capable of accomplishing its critical missions.

We initially believed that the flexibility given the Department would allow it to respond better in times of crisis. We know now that nothing could be further from the truth. The abysmal response to Hurricane Katrina taught us that lesson.

Despite Court rulings, however, on March 7, 2007, DHS announced that it will put into effect portions of the personnel system not specifically enjoined by the Court. Just a few weeks earlier, DHS outlined plans to move slower on its controversial personnel overhaul, formerly known as MaxHR, but now called the Human Capital Operations Plan or HCOP.

Implementing these plans would further undercut the fairness of the appeals process for DHS employees by eliminating the Merit Systems Protection Board’s current authority to modify agency-imposed penalties. These regulations would also provide the Secretary sole discretion to identify offenses and impose employee penalties as well as appoint a panel to decide the employee appeals the Secretary’s action.

According to U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, these regulations put the thumbs of the agencies down hard on the scales of justice in [the agencies’] favor.

The Federal Appeals Court agreed with the District Court’s basic conclusion regarding the lack of fairness of these planned changes in adverse action and appeal rights, but ruled that they were not yet ripe for a decision since no one has been subject to discipline under them. It is clear that another court case will be filed should DHS put these provisions into place and an employee is harmed by the new adverse actions and appeals procedures.

Some insisted that employees would be happier and more efficient if they were managed more like the private sector. We know now that nothing could be further from the truth. The Department’s morale ratings have consistently been at or near the bottom of all federal agencies.

In February of this year, the Department of Homeland Security received the lowest scores of any Federal agency on a Federal survey for job satisfaction, leadership and workplace performance. Of the 36 agencies surveyed: DHS ranked 36th on job satisfaction, 35th on leadership and knowledge management, 36th on results-oriented performance culture, and 33rd on talent management.

We know that the Department too often does not listen to their employees. In fact, the National Treasury Employees Union, NTEU, sent me a letter on behalf of the 15,000 employees of DHS’ Bureau of Customs and Border Protection thanking me for introducing my amendment repealing DHS’ failed human resource management system, MaxHR. Despite its incredibly low morale, the Department is not changing its plans to implement MaxHR. Instead the Department is merely changing the name of an unpopular and troubled system. MaxHR will become HCOP.

With the abysmal morale and extensive recruitment and retention challenges at DHS, implementing these personnel changes now will only further undermine the agency’s employees and mission. From the beginning of discussions over personnel regulations with DHS more than 4 years ago, it was clear that the only system that would work in this agency is one that is fair, credible and transparent. These regulations promulgated under the statute fail miserably to provide any of those critical elements. It is time to end this flawed personnel experiment.

So it is time for Congress to once again step in. It is time to say to the dedicated workers of the Department of Homeland Security that they deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect granted to other federal employees. Therefore, I thank my Homeland Security colleagues who supported my amendment repealing DHS’ failed human resource management system because Homeland Security is too important to get it wrong again.

[Congressional Record
Pages: H4665 – H4666]

AMERICAN FEDERATION OF
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO,
Washington, DC, May 7, 2007.

DEAR REPRESENTATIVE: On behalf of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents 26,000 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) workers, I strongly urge you to vote in support of passage of H.R. 1684, the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. The legislation responds to many issues AFGE has raised on behalf of the Border Patrol Agents, Customs and Border Protection Officers, Transportation Security Officers, Federal Protective Service Officers and other workers important to the agency’s mission of keeping our country safe.

H.R. 1684 supports DHS workers by repealing the portion of MAXHR (the agency’s flawed attempt to re-make civil service rules and protections) relating to employee appeal rights and performance management goals. The repeal of these provisions is of great importance because DHS has stated its intention to implement MAXHR regulations on employee appeal rights and performance management goals despite the likelihood that they will be overturned in federal court. The legislation also restores statutory authority for collective bargaining rights for DHS workers because the DHS regulations establishing a new collective bargaining system have been overturned by the courts. The reinstatement of fairness in DHS workplace rules and procedures is vitally important to keeping the expertise of highly trained, committed homeland security professionals at the agency.

H.R. 1684 recognizes the legitimate law enforcement responsibilities of Customs and Border Patrol Officers by including them in the federal Law Enforcement Retirement System, and strengthens Border Patrol Officer recruitment and retention measures, which will ensure that there are adequate personnel available to patrol our borders. The legislation also includes provisions that will prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement from implementing its unsound plan to eliminate police officers and special agents at the Federal Protective Service. H.R. 1684 recognizes that worker security in the DHS workplace facilitates greater homeland security for us all.

The workers at DHS have performed above and beyond the call of duty, even with bad workplace rules and policies. H.R. 1684 recognizes the contribution of the men and women on the front lines of security and provides them with the resources necessary to ensure that they continue to provide the best security in the world today. AFGE again strongly urges you to vote in support of H.R. 1684.

Sincerely,
Beth Moten,
Legislative and Political Director.


THE NATIONAL TREASURY
EMPLOYEES UNI*N
Washington, DC, May 7, 2007

Re Vote Yes on H.R. 1684, FY 2008 Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act

DEAR REPRESENTATIVE: I am writing on behalf of the 150,000 members of the National Treasury Employees Uni*n (NTEU) including 15,000 employees at the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to urge you to vote for passage of H.R. 1684, a bill t

o authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2008 for DHS.

H.R. 1684 includes many provisions that will enhance DHS’s national security mission. Of particular importance is Section 512 a provision that repeals the failed DHS human resource management system established by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the subsequent regulations issued by DHS.

In February of this year, DHS received the lowest scores of any federal agency on a federal survey for job satisfaction, leadership and workplace performance. Of the 36 agencies surveyed, DHS ranked 36th on job satisfaction, 35th on leadership and knowledge management, 36th of results-oriented performance culture, and 33rd on talent management. As I have stated previously, widespread dissatisfaction with DHS management and leadership creates a morale problem that affects the safety of this nation.

The four-year DHS personnel experiment has been a litany of failure because the law and the regulations effectively gut employee due process rights and put in serious jeopardy the agency’s ability to recruit and retain a workforce capable of accomplishing its critical missions. When Congress passed the Homeland Security Act in 2002, it granted the new department very broad discretion to create new personnel rules. It basically said that DHS could come up with new systems as long as employees were treated fairly and continued to be able to organize and bargain collectively.

The regulations DHS came up with did not even comply with these two very minimal and basic requirements and subsequent court rulings confirmed this truth. It should be clear to Congress that DHS has learned little from these court losses and repeated survey results and will continue to overreach in its attempts to implement the personnel provisions included in the Homeland Security Act of 2002. On March 7,2007, DHS announced that it will implement portions these compromised personnel regulations that were not explicitly ruled illegal by the courts.

With the abysmal morale and extensive recruitment and retention challenges at DHS, implementing these personnel changes now will only further undermine the agency’s employees and mission. From the beginning of discussions over personnel regulations with DHS more than four years ago, it was clear that the only system that would work in this agency is one that is fair, credible and transparent. These regulations promulgated under the statute fail miserably to provide by of those critical elements. It is time to end this flawed personnel experiment Passage of H.R. 1684 will accomplish this.

Also included in this legislation is Section 501, a provision that finally recognizes the Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) status of CBP Officers (CBPOs). Section 501 grants prospective LEO status and benefits to CBPOs as of March 2003. NTEU recognizes Section 501 as a significant breakthrough in achieving LEO status for those CBPOs on the frontlines protecting our nation’s sea, air, and land ports. NTEU members appreciate this significant first step and vows to work with Congress to assure comprehensive coverage of all CBPOs.

NTEU strongly supports H.R. 1684 and urges you to vote to approve the bill this week on the House floor and oppose any amendments that would weaken the above-mentioned provisions.

For more information or if you have any questions, please contact Jean Hutter with the NTEU Legislation Department.

Sincerely,
Colleen M. Kelley,
National President

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