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January 27, 2005
DHS Dumps Civil Service For Performance-Based System

The Department of Homeland Security will jettison its civil-service pay system in favor of a performance-based compensation and evaluation system, starting next January, according to the Washington Post. The move comes two years after the issue caused former Senator Max Cleland to hold up passage of the bill creating DHS in a futile attempt to block such a move, eventually costing Cleland his Senate seat:

The Bush administration unveiled a new personnel system for the Department of Homeland Security yesterday that will dramatically change the way workers are paid, promoted, deployed and disciplined -- and soon the White House will ask Congress to grant all federal agencies similar authority to rewrite civil service rules governing their employees.

The new system will replace the half-century-old General Schedule, with its familiar 15 pay grades and raises based on time in a job, and install a system that more directly bases pay on occupation and annual performance evaluations, officials said. The new system has taken two years to develop and will require at least four more to implement, they said.

The Bush administration would like to expand this system across the entire federal government, a move that makes union officials nervous. They plan on performing essentially useless gestures as a means of protesting the elimination of the job security the civil service system guaranteed their members, regardless of their performance:

Leaders of federal employee unions, however, immediately denounced the new DHS system and any plans to expand it government-wide. They said the system would undermine the morale of homeland security employees and make it harder to attract and keep talented workers. They said they would file a lawsuit to block its new restrictions on collective bargaining and employee appeals. They conceded that such a move would do nothing to curtail the new pay system, however, which by 2009 will cover at least 110,000 of the department's 180,000 employees.

"They are encouraging a management of coercion and intimidation," said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. He added: "This is not a modern system. This is a step backward."

They laughably told the Post that a performance-based system would discourage the best and brightest from joining the DHS and other areas of the government. However, most people who can make a living in the private sector choose to do so precisely because of the performance-based pay and promotion systems in the marketplace. Energetic and motivated employees who have to wait twenty years until someone retires before getting promoted do not last long in government service. The result of tenure systems overall is an unmotivated bureaucracy of clock-watchers.

I don't need that kind of unresponsive work force guarding the United States and my family. I want -- we all should want -- men and women who work hard and get rewarded as a result, encouraging even more hard work and creative thought. I want the DHS to be able to clear non-performing deadwood quickly so that our security doesn't suffer as a result. In fact, that seems so obvious to me that I have trouble comprehending why anyone would want to offer job protections and regular raises to people whose performance has little to do with their compensation for any government function.

This should provide some laughs for the 2006 election cycle. Let's see who lines up behind the idea of tenure-based systems for national security workers. Keep the names handy for next fall.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 27, 2005 7:29 AM

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» There's Hope from Secure Liberty
Captain Ed brigtens my spirits today with this post. The Homeland Security Department is rolling out a new performance based compensation system to replace civil service. The Bush administration unveiled a new personnel system for the Department of H... [Read More]

Tracked on January 27, 2005 11:49 AM

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