WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a report issued to Congress yesterday, the General Accountability Office (GAO) warned of potential problems with the new personnel scheme for Department of Homeland Security employees that was unveiled earlier this year. The report served as the written testimony of Comptroller General David M. Walker before the House Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce and Agency Organization, which is part of the Committee on Government Reform.
From the outset, AFGE National President John Gage has expressed concern about the extraordinarily lack of detail in the new regulations, which were co-authored by staff from DHS and the Office of Personnel Management. “DHS has considerable work ahead to define the details of the implementation of its system,” says the GAO report, “and getting those details right will be critical to the success of the overall system.”
“It’s hard to argue with that statement,” said Gage. “For instance, where are the details about checks and balances in this new system, where a supervisor can arbitrarily decide who gets a raise, and who doesn’t, based pretty much on personal preference?”
In fact, the report notes the lack of established “core competency” measurements “that can help to communicate to employees what is expected of them.” Moreover, the vaguely drawn ratings scheme outlined in the regulations does “not provide the meaningful differentiation in performance needed for transparency to employees, and for making the most informed pay decisions.” The report goes on to call for the implementation of a performance management system “that includes adequate safeguards to help assure consistency and prevent abuse.”
“It’s hard not to bristle at the irony of DHS needing to create, from whole cloth, a new set of safeguards, when they threw out those that have served the nation and its public servants for so many years,” Gage concluded. “Now, with impartial, third-party appeals boards and collective bargaining virtually eliminated in the Department of Homeland Security, this report sounds an alarm. If DHS employees are subject to favoritism and cronyism for advancement on the job, how safe, really, are the American people?”