WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., issued the following statement Thursday in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement of new personnel regulations.
“While the Department of Homeland Security has made some improvement in its final personnel regulations over what was proposed a year ago, I believe the final rules will still undermine key employee protections that prevent workplace abuses and improve employee performance. I am concerned that the critical homeland security mission of the agency may suffer as a result because of these regulations. “When the rules were proposed a year ago, I and others objected to a number of the elements that remain — for example, excessive limits on collective bargaining that go beyond what is necessary to maintain the critical mission of the department, changes to the appeals process that interfere with employees’ rights to due process, and unduly vague and untested pay and performance provisions. This is just not acceptable. “These regulations will convey great discretion to managers at the Department of Homeland Security. Judge Chertoff, if he is confirmed as Secretary, and other officers and supervisors at the Department must exercise this broad discretion in a manner that is restrained and that fully includes employees and their representatives in the implementation. The key to success is to foster a spirit of collaboration between managers and front-line employees and to prevent arbitrary and abusive workplace practices. The Department’s critical national security mission absolutely depends upon sustaining employee morale and performance, which these rules threaten. “I am also concerned about the Adminsitration’s plan to extend the DHS personnel authorities government-wide. Congress decided the Homeland Security Department needed extraordinary flexibility to waive civil service protections because of its unique security mission. Now that DHS is undertaking a grand experiment in revamping the civil service system, we should see how it works before we consider whether it would be appropriate for agencies without critical national security responsibilities.” Lieberman wrote to DHS Secretary Tom Ridge and Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Cole James in May 2004 objecting to the proposed rules.