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Federal Diary Live

Janet Hale
Undersecretary for Management at the Department of Homeland Security
Wednesday, January 26, 2005; 1:00 PM

The Department of Homeland Security this morning announced regulations that will change how employees are paid, promoted and disciplined--one of the most sweeping changes in the government's workplace practices in decades. The regulations also modify how the department deals with unions and the process that employees used to appeal disciplinary actions.

Janet Hale, the undersecretary for management at the department, joins The Post's Stephen Barr, who writes the Federal Diary column, to take your questions about the regulations and their impact on the department's 110,000 civil service employees.


Hale was confirmed by the Senate on March 6, 2003, as the department's undersecretary. Prior to that, she served as the assistant secretary for budget, technology and finance for the Health and Human Services Department. Before joining HHS, she was the associate administrator for finance for the House of Representatives and the associate director for economics and government at the Office of Management and Budget. She also has served at the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development departments. She holds a bachelor's degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a master's in public administration from Harvard University.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Stephen Barr: Thanks for waiting, folks. We're just back from a briefing on the new homeland security regulations, which will be published in the Federal Register later this week. Thanks for taking questions today, Undersecretary Hale. Please start our discussion by describing the benefits of the new system.

Janet Hale: This new regulation will give the Department of Homeland Security a 21st Century personnell system that will allow flexibility, agility and accountability to our front line employees and managers. We will meet the mission of the department -- protecting the homeland -- at the same time preserving fundamental fairness and due process rights for all employees

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Chicago, Ill.: When does DHS expect the new labor board to be up and running?

Janet Hale: The department has between 30 and 180 days to implement the labor relations part of the regulation which includes the appointment of the labor relations board. In other words we will have it implemented in the next six months

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Washington, DC: When and where can one view the new regulations?

Janet Hale: The regulations will be published in the federal register early next week. For DHS employees there will be a link on the DHS intranet. They will also be available on the DHS internet.

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Stephen Barr: Ms. Hale, please walk us through the phase in of the new system, and when employees will actually see the results of a new system reflected in their paychecks?

Janet Hale: Good question -- spring of 2005 manager and supervisor training will begin and the labor relations, adverse actions and appeals portion of the program become effective for all the covered employees. A new performance management process will be introduced in the fall of 2005. The first impact of performance on pay will be seen in January of 2007. Employees at DHS headquarters, IAIP, S& T, EP & R and FLETC will be converted to the new pay system in January of 2006 with a performance pay out in January of 2007. The second phase of DHS employees -- US Secret SErvice and USCoast Guard civilians will be converted to the new pay system in January 2007 with a pay out in January 2008 and final phase -- CBP and ICE and CIS will be 2008 and 2009 respectively.

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Vienna, Va.: I think many of the proposed changes are good ones but change of this magnitude also requires employee buy-in, effective supervisors and managers, and trust between employees and managers. Do you think DHS has these ingredients in place?

Janet Hale: Again a great question. DHS leadership and managers are committed to making sure training, education and information to all of our employees. We will have outreach sessions begining this spring. And has we did during the development of the proposed and final regulation we will rely heavily on feedback, consultation and input from our employees. Also DHS leadership is committed to getting it right and will take the appropriate steps and time to ensure this.

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Stephen Barr: On the matter of pay, it's the department's policy not to reduce the pay of any employee during the conversion to the new system. Many employees tell me they hope the department will provide a cost-of-living adjustment on an annual basis to protect their purchasing power. Is that called for in the new regulations?

Janet Hale: The final regulation provide for annual market based nationwide adjustments of pay for all employees whose performance is is acceptable or greater. The difference from current GS provision is that these adjustments may vary by occupation and location.

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Alexandria, Va.: Two questions: Please elaborate on the benefits to employees (then the Dept/nation) of going to this system? And, have the Unions been involved with this process and where do they stand on this system?

Janet Hale: The benefits to the employees are that their pay will be tied to performance and they can more directly impact their pay advancment as individuals. They can be recognized and rewarded. This system is designed to attract and retain the outstanding DHS employees.

To your second question, the DHS labor unions have been involved throughout the design of this new system. We had extenisve outreach across the country where individual union members came to discuss the system. The leadership here in Washington has been involved in meetings with DHS leadership -- including Secretary Tom Ridge. Their voice has been heard and many changes in the final regulations are as a result of their comments as well as employees directly.

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Denver, Colo.: So, will the FLRA retain juridiction for 6 months until the new labor board is up and running?

Janet Hale: The FLRA will retain jurisdiction until the new board is appointed. The new board will resolve disputes concerning scope of bargaining and management rights issues. FLRA will retain jurdistion over unit determination, union elections and individual unfair labor practice charges.

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Milwaukee, Wis.: Will different portions of the regulations be phased in at different times; e.g., might the LR portion be brought online at a different time than ER or pay provisions?

Janet Hale: Yes the phase in for the labor relations, adverse action and appeals will take place in the next six months. The performance management rules will be phased this fall with pay conversion and adjustment over the next three years.

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Stephen Barr: Ms. Hale, department officials stressed today that union leaders have been involved in the process and had an impact on the final regulations. What do you see as the major changes between the proposed rules and the final rules?

Janet Hale: The changes between the proposed and final regulations include the requirement that the department collaborate with and involve employee representative in the detail design and evaluation of this new system. The phase in of the pay for performance is a direct result of discussions during meet and confer with employee representatives. In the area of adverse and appeals, we have provided employee rights to grieve performance ratings and appeal to the MSBP (which was allowed in the proposed regulations)and to grieve including arbitration by third parties which was not in the proposed regulations. As well as other areas. The preamble discusses these and other changes that resulted from the proposed regulations, the 3800 comments that we received and great employee and their representative feedback during this process

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San Juan, P.R.: Will TSA be allowed collective bargaining rights?

Janet Hale: These regulations do not cover TSA and there is no plan to change the status of collective bargaining in that organization.

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Arlington, Va.: From your vantage point, what do you think is the stomach for these changes? That is, will the rest of us have to wait until your phase-in is completed in 2009? I know that you may not know the answer to that, but have you been talking to counterparts at other agencies on an informal basis about implementing changes elsewhere?

Janet Hale: Change is always hard. But so is our mission. Change management will be an important part of this over the implementation. We will spend significant leadership, management and employee time to be sure that all understand
the changes that are envisioned in the creation of this department and this new personnel system. The department and opm have and will continue to talk to other agencies -- to learn from their experiences that was a significant part of the design phase before we published the proposed regulations.

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Arlington, Va.: Ms. Hale - I've worked in a few govenrment agencies in my 20 years. Unfortunately, I've seen some awful managers who liked power or used their position to create a click of favorite employees. How does the new rating system address the abuse of favoritism ? If fact, doesn't taking away the step structure only increase the potential for supervisor favoritism ?

Janet Hale: I heard this expressed alot as I traveled across the country and have talked to dedicated DHS employees. Our goal is to have a fair, transparent system that all will understand and trust. We are commited to implmenting the peformance management provisions wiht direct employee and their reprsentatives involvement in order to achieve our objective.

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Arlington, Va.: This system will put extra pressure on the department's managers. How do you envision the training that will be provided and how long will training go on?

Janet Hale: The department is commited to an extensive training program which will include classroom, on line, and print materials which will be made available beginning later this spring and will continue throughout the implementation phases.

While you are right that this will put pressure on our managers -- and on our employees as we transition to the new system-- we believe that the end -- a simpler, more streamline system which encourages mentoring and coaching -- will pay off.

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Austin, Tex.: What happens to wage grade employees? When do we join this system?

Janet Hale: Wage grade employees will be covered by the performance, labor relations, adverse action and appeals portion of these new regulations. We do not plan to change pay and classification for wage grade employees at this time.

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Washington, D.C.: What will the new payment plan be called, if not GS?

Janet Hale: That hasn't been decided -- got a good idea or suggestion?

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Washington, D.C.: As a non-government person, two questions: how much will this new system cost (planning, staffing, databases, etc.) and what steps will DHS take to keep payroll costs from rising out of control? Thank you.

Janet Hale: In the FY 05 appropriations bill, $36 million has been appropriated for the design and development of this new system. A key component of this is for training our employees during the transition

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Washington, D.C.: How important a role did Secretary Ridge play in this process and will his departure cause any problems?

Janet Hale: Secretary Ridge has been personally involved in the key decisions and in the outreach to our employees and union representatives. His own personal commitment to this as been evident throughout. And most importantly his commitment to give the flexibilities necessary to meet our homeland security mission while steadfastly ensuring the result is fair.

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Stephen Barr: Janet Hale, we've run out of time, I regret to say. Thanks so much for taking questions today on the new system!;

Janet Hale: Many thanks

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