Civil Service Reform Will Improve Bioterror Readiness

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Saying that biodefense employees are key to America’s bioterror readiness, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) today urged federal agencies to improve their efforts to hire more scientists and medical experts.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Partnership for Public Service to release its new report, Homeland Insecurity: Building the Expertise to Defend America from Bioterrorism, Collins said, “The Partnership’s latest report provides yet another example of the need for fundamental change to our civilian personnel system.”

Collins, whose committee has jurisdiction over civilian personnel matters, said that she would work to provide more flexibility to agencies to ensure they have the talent in place to meet their mission requirements. “We made a commitment to reform pay for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, but we cannot afford to leave other agencies behind,” Collins asserted.

In June, the Governmental Affairs Committee approved Collins’ legislation, the National Security Personnel System Act (S. 1166), which would give the Secretary of Defense flexibility to better manage the department’s 730,000 civilian workers. The bill would provide the Secretary with the power to replace the current General Schedule, 12-grade pay system with a performance-based system, the ability to conduct on-the-spot hiring for hard-to-fill positions, and the authority to raise collective bargaining to the national level rather than negotiating with approximately 1,300 local bargaining units.

Collins added that Congress should find ways to help build a biodefense corps. She supports recommendations outlined in the Partnership’s report, such as conducting a national audit of biodefense workforce needs, creating scholarships, encouraging student loan repayment, and promoting ongoing education and job rotations between the public and private sectors.

“We must act now to find common sense personnel reforms to better manage and sustain our federal workforce,” said Collins. “Workforce challenges facing federal biodefense agencies underscore the need for reform.”