DHS Personnel Officer Resigns as Department Tackles Crucial Workplace Issues

By Stephen Barr
Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The top personnel officer at the Department of Homeland Security, on the job about eight months, has resigned and will leave June 9, a department spokesman said.

K. Gregg Prillaman , who has more than 30 years of experience in personnel and management issues, had been tapped to oversee an ambitious revision of pay scales and workplace rules at Homeland Security, which has about 185,000 employees.

His departure is another jolt to the department, which has been coping with turnover in its senior executive ranks. "I was surprised by his resignation," said Michael Jackson , deputy secretary for Homeland Security. "He had done some good work for us. He just made a decision to make a change, and that was his call."

Department spokesman Larry Orluskie said Prillaman had no comment on his resignation. "We will pass on the opportunity at this time to do an interview," Orluskie said.

Prillaman's departure comes as the department wrestles with a series of critical workplace issues. A lawsuit brought by federal unions has blocked new rules that would curtail union rights and an appeals court ruling could come within the next few weeks. The House has voted to take money from the department's management account and shows little interest in providing funds to develop a new personnel system. And the merger of 22 agencies into Homeland Security, although three years old, continues to drain employee morale.

The department is behind its original schedule for changing how employees will be paid, deployed and disciplined. Officials now hope to introduce a new pay-for-performance system in February 2007 and continue in phases through 2008.

Some officials fear that the changes, although a priority for the administration, may continue to slip because of more pressing issues, such as improving immigration and border controls, and preparing for the summer hurricane season.

Prillaman's position -- chief human capital officer -- is relatively new in the government. Congress created the position in 2002 as a way to elevate workforce issues and put them on the table at senior leadership meetings.

But the job did not work out for Prillaman, according to current and former colleagues.

Prillaman and Janet Hale , the department's undersecretary for management, clashed over policy and operational issues, colleagues said. Strong philosophical differences so strained their relationship that they could not work together, said the colleagues, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss an internal matter.

Jackson suggested that the accounts were off base. "I would not oversubscribe to any sort of internal discussions here about people pushing on each other, because that happens in any organization," he said.

Hale also is leaving the department; her last day was Friday. She had been at Homeland Security since its founding. . She declined to be interviewed, Orluskie said.

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