Red Pen Scare


Michael Knowles of in the Citizenship and Immigration Services bureau and an American Federation of Government Employees representative, said that human resources officials have been "basically going [through] with a red pen saying this is unenforceable or this is not consistent."
Knowles was asked by AFGE to attend several meetings with DHS human resources officials designed to open communication with the unions on the new system. These ongoing meetings are being held in the run-up to the Aug. 1 deadline for the implementation of the labor relations section of the new personnel system.
The collective bargaining agreements now in place are holdovers from agencies that existed before the creation of the Homeland Security Department. The former Immigration and Naturalization Service, for example, had an agreement from 2000 that is still in effect.
Homeland Security spokesman Larry Orluski said the search for unenforceable provisions will help managers and employees, not hurt them.
The process of going through existing bargaining agreements is to "make it clear for employees and managers and supervisors. They need to know what portions [of their agreements] still pertain and what portions don't...Managers have to know where things stand, and that's the idea," Orluski said.
"I don't know where the red pen thing came from," Orluski said. "But it's going to go to them in an Excel spreadsheet."
Charles Showalter, president of AFGE's National Homeland Security Council, said the process is not so benign.
"Right now, the agency is under the direction of some of these people designed to break the backs of unions," Showalter said. They are "looking to the contract, seeing what they think they can get away with, seeing what some of the authorities granted by Congress are and how far they can push those. It's a matter of some people within the agency trying to make it so they can do whatever they want with impunity."
After the Aug. 1 implementation, employees and their unions can appeal the decisions on what provisions are unenforceable to the Homeland Security Labor Relations Board, the members of which are appointed by the department's secretary. Nominations can be submitted by unions.

http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0705/070605r2.htm

Report lays out options for managing poor performers
By Karen Rutzick
krutzick@govexec.com
Giving new workers a probationary period for their first two years is one technique organizations have used in an effort to weed out poor performers, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.
The idea, included in the Homeland Security Department's recent personnel overhaul, is just one of a several performance-related options that could be applied to the entire government, GAO reported.
The report (GAO-05-812R) includes a roundup of ideas being put into practice at Homeland Security and the Defense Department for managing poor performers in the workplace. These include the denial of pay increases, the use of internal Web sites to track performance ratings and the elimination of an opportunity period for employees to improve performance.
Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said she "cannot imagine why any responsible manager would support" elimination of opportunity periods. Kelley said that for the development of successful employees, opportunity periods are essential.
Ward Morrow, assistant general counsel of the American Federation of Government Employees, criticized the idea of lengthening probationary periods. He said that if initial probationary periods are shorter, "you can figure out earlier and quicker" if the employee is competent.
The report's findings were presented to the House Government Reform Committee on June 21 in response to requests from Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., about how agencies deal with poor performers.
The report characterizes poor performers as "employees with whom you are seriously disappointed," based on a definition drawn from a 1999 report issued by the Office of Personnel Management. "You have little confidence they will do their jobs right. You often have to redo their work, or you may have had to severely modify their assignments to give them only what work they can do, which is much less than what you otherwise want them to do. They are just not pulling their weight."
Under a personnel demonstration project, the Naval Sea Systems Command Warfare Center's Newport, R.I., division denies pay increases to employees whose performance is rated as unacceptable, the report stated.
DHS also shortened the time employees are allowed to respond to disciplinary measures, and accelerated the adjudication process through the Merit Systems Protection Board, the report stated.

http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050705/NEWS01/507050372/1002

July 5, 2005
Arrests exposing security weaknesses
By Frank James
Chicago Tribune
WASHINGTON — Nearly four years after the Sept. 11 calamity, arrests of illegal immigrant workers are exposing security gaps at sensitive sites.

Several weeks ago, the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, detained 26 undocumented workers at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., where the Coast Guard's new "national security cutters" and the Navy's next-generation ships are being built.

There was no suggestion by federal officials that the illegal workers had any terrorist connections. But the presence of people who used false documents to gain entry to the shipyard was, at the very least, a cause for concern.
In May, ICE arrested 60 undocumented workers at a variety of sites: petrochemical refineries, a pipeline operation, power plants and an air-cargo facility.

In the past 12 months, ICE has detained illegal or improperly documented immigrants working as aircraft mechanics in North Carolina and Arizona and others working at a Texas plant that made ready-to-eat meals for U.S. troops in Iraq.
They've also been arrested at Boston's Logan International Airport, nuclear plants in Iowa and Florida and, also at Florida's Port Canaveral, which has cruise and cargo ship operations.

The obvious fear is that if illegal immigrants can so easily enter such locations, terrorists could too.

Since Sept. 11, immigration enforcement officials have intensified efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants working at locations critical to the U.S. economy or national security.
They've shifted immigration agents' focus to sensitive sites and away from less critical workplaces like carwashes, hotels and restaurants. Among the efforts are Operation Tarmac, targeting airports, and Operation Glow Worm, aimed at nuclear power plants.

One consequence: Illegal immigrant workers at sites thought to have little to no value as terrorist targets haven't much to fear in terms of agents appearing during work hours to arrest them.
Despite the shift, experts lament that there are too few resources to close the security gaps, allowing undocumented workers to find jobs at critical sites.

Because there is such a large pool of illegal workers and a need for cheap labor — and because the fear of being caught and punished is so small — immigration officials are essentially involved in a version of job-site whack-a-mole.

"It's worse than that," says Michael Cutler, a retired immigration official who has testified before Congress on immigration enforcement. "What they're trying to do is spoon the beach with a teaspoon, and every time the tide washes in it brings in a lot more sand than they've removed."
ICE has about 6,000 special agents, said agency spokesman Manny Van Pelt. But some experts put the number of agents actually doing immigration enforcement at less than half that number since the total includes many agents who perform traditional customs duties.

Some estimates suggest there are at least 10 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
There don't appear to be many significant reinforcements coming to the rescue for ICE.

Last year, Congress passed legislation authorizing 800 more ICE agents, but President Bush's proposed budget for fiscal year 2006 provided funding for only 143 new investigators.

"That won't even cover attrition," said Randy Callahan, an immigration enforcement officer based in San Diego and executive vice president of the National Homeland Security Council, the union that represents some Homeland Security Department employees.

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/politics/12052149.htm


Posted on Mon, Jul. 04, 2005





Arrests exposing security weaknesses

BY FRANK JAMES
Chicago Tribune
WASHINGTON - (KRT) - Nearly four years after the Sept. 11 calamity, arrests of illegal immigrant workers are exposing security gaps at sensitive sites.
Several weeks ago, the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, detained 26 undocumented workers at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., where the Coast Guard's new "national security cutters" and the Navy's next-generation ships are being built.
There was no suggestion by federal officials that the illegal workers had any terrorist connections. But the presence of people who used false documents to gain entry to the shipyard was, at the very least, a cause for concern.
In May, ICE arrested 60 undocumented workers at a variety of sites: petrochemical refineries, a pipeline operation, power plants and an air-cargo facility.
In the past 12 months, ICE has detained illegal or improperly documented immigrants working as aircraft mechanics in North Carolina and Arizona and others working at a Texas plant that made ready-to-eat meals for U.S. troops in Iraq.
They've also been arrested at Boston's Logan International Airport, nuclear plants in Iowa and Florida and, also at Florida's Port Canaveral, which has cruise and cargo ship operations.
The obvious fear is that if illegal immigrants can so easily enter such locations, terrorists could too.
Since Sept. 11, immigration enforcement officials have intensified efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants working at locations critical to the U.S. economy or national security.
They've shifted immigration agents' focus to sensitive sites and away from less critical workplaces like carwashes, hotels and restaurants. Among the efforts are Operation Tarmac, targeting airports, and Operation Glow Worm, aimed at nuclear power plants.
One consequence: Illegal immigrant workers at sites thought to have little to no value as terrorist targets haven't much to fear in terms of agents appearing during work hours to arrest them.
Despite the shift, experts lament that there are too few resources to close the security gaps, allowing undocumented workers to find jobs at critical sites.
Because there is such a large pool of illegal workers and a need for cheap labor - and because the fear of being caught and punished is so small - immigration officials are essentially involved in a version of job-site whack-a-mole.
"It's worse than that," says Michael Cutler, a retired immigration official who has testified before Congress on immigration enforcement. "What they're trying to do is spoon the beach with a teaspoon, and every time the tide washes in it brings in a lot more sand than they've removed."
ICE has about 6,000 special agents, said agency spokesman Manny Van Pelt. But some experts put the number of agents actually doing immigration enforcement at less than half that number since the total includes many agents who perform traditional customs duties.
Some estimates suggest there are at least 10 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
There don't appear to be many significant reinforcements coming to the rescue for ICE. Last year, Congress passed legislation authorizing 800 more ICE agents, but President Bush's proposed budget for fiscal year 2006 provided funding for only 143 new investigators.
"That won't even cover attrition," said Randy Callahan, an immigration enforcement officer based in San Diego and executive vice president of the National Homeland Security Council, the union that represents some Homeland Security Department employees.
ICE has just emerged from a year-long hiring freeze. The agency received emergency funding as part of legislation passed in May.
Contributing to the problem has been an overall climate of weak enforcement, according to Steven Camarota, research director for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter immigration enforcement.
He points to statistics on ICE's Web site that appear to show much laxer enforcement against employers since the late 1990s.
Immigration officials issued more than 778 final orders or notices to employers in fiscal 1997 that the federal government was levying fines because the employer had hired illegal immigrants. In fiscal 2002 that number fell to 13, rising to 124 the next fiscal year.
"It's basically sending the message to employers," Camarota said, "that if you work in critical infrastructure and you hire an illegal alien, we're not going to fine you. ..."
Camarota adds that both the Clinton and the current Bush administrations have been weak on enforcement.
The drop in enforcement actions is explained by the shift to policing worksites with economic or national security significance, said Van Pelt. And he points to the steady string of arrests by ICE agents as proof the agency is serious about the current crackdown.
"I think the actions we publicize certainly speak for what we're doing," he said.


http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2005/20050706_1986.html

Survey Seeks Employee Input in Shaping Civilian Personnel System
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 6, 2005 – Civil service employees who will soon come under the new National Security Personnel System have another opportunity to help shape the program.
The new National Security Personnel System Factor Survey gives General Schedule employees the chance to register their views about several performance factors identified for inclusion in the new personnel system.
"Now we need your assistance to ensure that these performance factors are relevant and reflect work that you personally perform on your job," Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England wrote in a June 29 memo to DoD civilian employees.
England emphasized the importance of the survey in his memo. While stressing that participation is voluntarily, he urged civil service employees to participate. "I thank you for your feedback and participation in the NSPS design process thus far," he wrote. "We still need your help."
The survey period began today and continues through July 20.
Charles Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, urged employees to take the 15 or 20 minutes required to complete the online survey to ensure that their views are known.
Views expressed in the survey will have long-term implications, Abell said during an interview today with the Pentagon Channel. The results will help program implementers determine what factors will be used to evaluate employees' job performance for the next 15 or 20 years, he said.
"It's an opportunity for (employees) to have a voice in the system that they are going to be living under and to make sure that we get it right," said Mary Lacey, program executive officer for the National Security Personnel System.
"And we want to get it right," Lacey said. "We want to hear what employees have to say, and we want them to be a part of our design process."
Lacey said system designers are particularly interested in hearing from civil service employees who have been part of DoD personnel demonstration programs. "They bring to the table real experience in a system that has National Security Personnel System-like features," she said. "So we think their input will be incredibly valuable."
Meanwhile, progress continues in putting the new personnel system in place. The current goal is to publish the final regulations in the Federal Register by summer's end and begin bringing the first employees into the system by the end of the fiscal year, Lacey said.
However, she stressed, the implementation schedule will be "event-driven," and "we are not going to take certain steps until we are ready."
Once in place, the new personnel system is expected to benefit the Defense Department and its civilian employees alike by doing away with outdated, bureaucratic policies.
"DoD is a dynamic institution," Abell said. "Our mission has changed, our focus has changed, and this will allow the civilian-employee workplace to change with that changing mission and changing focus of our leadership."
One of the system's key features is a pay-for-performance plan that rewards and recognizes individual performance and contributions.
The new system also will enable employees to get more involved in their individual career development, with broad pay bands and occupational groupings giving them more flexibility to shape their careers, Lacey said.
The result, Abell said, will be a workplace that's "more productive (and more) efficient, with our jobs aligned with our mission." Once the system is implemented, DoD "ought to be a happier place to live and work," he said.



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