WASHINGTON – Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Chairman of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, announced today that the committee has approved the bills she authored to streamline the homeland security grant process for states, communities and first responders and to restructure the Department of Defense’s civilian personnel system.
“The Homeland Security Grant Enhancement Act will promote the same kind of coordination among federal agencies that we require from our states and communities,” said Collins. “It will require federal agencies to build a straight path to the funding that enables our first responders to do what they do best — prepare for and respond to emergencies.
“Equally important, civilian employees at the Defense Department are entitled to safeguards similar to those afforded other employees in the federal workforce,” she said. “This measure to restructure the department’s civilian personnel system strikes the proper balance between promoting a flexible system and protecting employee rights.”
These two bills are groundbreaking efforts toward improving the federal government’s ability to respond to the nation’s critical security needs.
The first bill, the Homeland Security Grant Enhancement Act (S. 1245), would authorize a program to provide billions of dollars in assistance to state and local governments and first responders. The bill would create a “one-stop” point of access to grant funding, technical assistance, threat assessments and information on best practices and equipment. It also would allow more flexibility in the use of federal dollars to address homeland security needs and provide first responders with funding in a more coordinated and timely manner. In addition, the bill would eliminate duplication in homeland security planning requirements, simplify the grant application process, and promote equipment interoperability.
The second bill, the National Security Personnel System Act (S.1166), 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.
Unlike the House bill, which mirrors the Secretary’s request for a new internal appeals process, Collins’ legislation calls for a gradual transition from the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) to the new process. In addition, the Collins bill would retain the MSPB as an appellate body and would give the employee the option of judicial review if that employee is adversely affected by the final decision.