The departments of Defense and Homeland Security are surveying their employees to gather their views on which factors should be considered in developing new systems to evaluate an individual's job performance.

The performance management systems will be used to measure whether employees are meeting job expectations, and the job ratings will help the departments steer higher raises to their best workers. The Bush administration has complained that pay and performance systems are lax, making little or no distinction between employees.

Defense and Homeland Security hope to begin phasing in the systems next year. They are widely perceived as models for extending more rigorous performance-based pay systems to the rest of the government.

Homeland Security has dubbed its new system MaxHR, and the Pentagon's is called the National Security Personnel System. They will replace the decades-old General Schedule and related systems that cover most civil service employees.

Homeland Security is seeking feedback on "competencies" -- the knowledge, skills and behaviors required in a job -- that the department has identified and believes should apply to all employees.

A memo by Ronald James, Homeland Security's top personnel official, listed the competencies as technical competence; critical thinking; cooperation and teamwork; communication; customer service; managing resources; representing the agency; achieving results; leadership; and assigning, evaluating and monitoring work.

The Defense survey covers similar ground, the relevance of certain work activities to employees' jobs.

Union officials differed yesterday on the value of the surveys, which are being administered through Web sites.

"I don't think the answers will make a difference. I think they are going to do what they want to do," said Charles Showalter, president of the National Homeland Security Council, a part of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said she has encouraged Homeland Security employees represented by NTEU to participate in the survey.

"We see our responsibility as doing everything we can so that voices of employees are heard," Kelley said. She noted that employees will be evaluated on the competencies in 2006 and that they need to make sure the department understands their job responsibilities.

Brian DeWyngaert, chief of staff at AFGE, called the Defense survey a waste of taxpayer dollars. Asked if the union would call on Defense employees to boycott it, DeWyngaert said, "We are going to tell people that this is a voluntary survey, and tell them not to volunteer."

Larry Orluski, a Homeland Security spokesman, said the survey will help sort out skills needed by employees. "It is important that everyone affected by the system have an opportunity to define the system," he said.

Retirements

Richard Bowles, a supervisory special agent in the Broadcasting Board of Governors' office of security, will retire tomorrow after 33 years of government service.

Cathryn Donchatz, division director at the Treasury Department's Financial Management Service, will retire Sunday after 35 years of federal service.

Fred N. Eichorn, director of the Army's Institute of Heraldry, retires today after 14 years of federal civilian service.

Beatrice Smotherman retires today from the State Department after 35 years of federal service, working in public affairs, economic and business affairs and human resources.

Michael J. Thibault, deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency since 1994, retired June 3 after more than 34 years of government service. He served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam.

Thomas E. Sellers, director of contingency planning and management for the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service, retires today.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com