March 2003


Allegedly, copies of the meeting video tape will be sent to offices very quickly, so you may have your own opportunity to see the big program.  In the meantime, I thought I would share some information from the Chair and the Chief Operating Officer, as well a few other salient points. 

Generally, the format was the same as last year.  The Chair spoke, Commissioners Miller and Silverman spoke, Lee Guarraia spoke, I spoke and the Headquarters Office Directors spoke. Again, there were guest speakers.

This year, after each HQ Office director spoke, particular office staff were recognized for their efforts and “Pete the Eagle” eaglettes were given out as recognition.   A special tribute was paid to former Chair William Brown.

Highlights include the following:

The Chair stressed that it was important to have the all employee meeting, and that having the meeting at the Mayflower hotel was cost effective, given the need.  Finally the Chair stressed that she hoped the meeting would allow her to address some of the pending issues.

The Chair and Lee continue to insist that they are optimistic about not having to face furloughs.  The two of them and OCLA staff have made several visits to Capital Hill seeking funding from various Committee Leaders and supporters. 

The NAPA study was discussed based on the four primary areas where recommendations were made:

  1. Call Centers to improve customer service and to allow employees to focus on their work of serving our public
  2. Streamlining/reorganizing the field, as well as using technology and mobility to help avoid the rising costs of real estate
  3. reorganizing HQ to clarify the lack of coordination and avoid redundancies, and
  4. Improving HR and using technology to improve our support systems.

A brief summary of upcoming NAPA initiatives includes:

Comments on the NAPA report are being collected.  At the end of the thirty day comment period, a team of field and HQ managers will make recommendations to the Chair about what should be implemented.  It was noted that any changes will be part of a multi-year plan.  Finally, the message was sent – change is inevitable as it is driven by Congress and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The Telecommuting Report from the Office of the IG was discussed.  The Chair reiterated that any program must be voluntary and the employee situation must be appropriate for telecommuting.

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The Chair stressed that telecommuting cannot be mandated.  The chair emphasized that the 35% reduction in space will occur largely due to office restructuring, that it is not an across the board requirement in each office as any reductions must make sense and must create a conducive work environment for front line staff.

The Chair expressed that she is exploring options for streamlining the federal sector hearings process while fully protecting employees in the process.

Lee followed, echoing the sentiments of the Chair and providing additional background material.  For example, the Calls Centers are necessary due to the uneven response provided by offices.  Directors were asked to provide information on how calls were handled.  The current survey results from the need to obtain specific information about the nature, frequency and duration of the calls.  In the end, improved customer service is the goal.

Lee advised on the new evaluation tool for agencies called PART – Program Assessment Rating Tool.  As part of the President’s Management Agenda, the agency budget will depend on the GPRA Goals, the Strategic Plan and the PART results we produce, not in terms of numbers of cases processed, but how we have better served our public, improved our work processes and what value has been added to our processes.   Future funding will depend on our marks on PART.

The FAIR Inventory and Competitive Sourcing Issues were addressed by Lee and Jeff Smith.  Both reiterated that just because the positions are on the list does not mean that the work will be outsourced, or that any employees will lose jobs.

Lee recognized that we still are in a hiring freeze but said that the SES candidate program will be expanded so that managers can get experience at other agencies as part of training.   Training for all employees is important to the Chair, and money for improvement will be put into the budget.  Lee and Angie Ibarguen form OHR stressed the need for employees in offices on the pilot program to use the edc.eeoc.gov website and to take courses.  Managers were reminded to allow employees duty time to participate in the pilot.  For those employees in an office not in the pilot program, comparable training selections are available on golearn.gov

Aletha Brown from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reviewed the IG report on Telecommuting and reminded the audience that mandatory telecommuting is not recommended, as barriers remain.  Barriers include resistance from employees and managers, technology shortcomings and data security as well as funding for additional equipment.   Pilots for the selected offices will provide valuable information on how to make such a program work.  The report has been well received by OPM, NAPA and the OMB as a way to increase training opportunities, to recruit and retain staff and as an alternative to RIFs. 

The OIG will conduct assessments of HQ space and how to make it more cost effective – renting space, moving WFO into the space, etc.  The OIG will pilot frequent telework to have some data on how the program would work, to condense

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their office space and to test office sharing. 

Other comments were heard from Office Directors which supported the remarks made by the Chair and Lee.  Most notably for federal sector, there was a recognition that ADR was useful, that hearings must remain and some kind of triage management of cases would be particularly helpful.  There will be no change to statutes, but regulatory

changes will be proposed later this year and must go through the comment process.

OHR initiatives include automating the records systems, including time and attendance.

The text of my comments is attached.

Other items of interest in the news:

Civil Service Reform In the Spotlight

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, plans to introduce legislation designed to reform the civil service.  One of the first bills out the door, according to Davis' spokesman, David Marin, will likely be legislation that would grant the administration expedited authority to recommend changes to the structure of government agencies and departments, also called fast track authority.

Other legislation will be forthcoming, Marin said, however it's too early to say what reform proposals Davis will move forward with and what the legislative package will look like. Davis has not decided for example, if it makes sense to introduce one all-encompassing bill or individual bills that address specific reform proposals.

"We need to have discussions with stakeholders. We need to see how things are unfolding at" the Homeland Security Department, Marin said.

At a committee hearing March 6 to discuss workforce reform recommendations laid out in a January report, Davis said he "wants to make sure" there are supporters in both parties for civil service reform before moving ahead with legislation. The subject of the hearing was the report from the National Commission on the Public Service, which among its 14 recommendations suggested dividing the Senior Executive Service into a corps of executive managers and a corps of professional technical experts. In his testimony, Davis said he is "very interested in pursuing all of these recommendations."

Responding to a question from Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), Paul Volcker, chairman of the commission, said the most important recommendation would be "getting some legislation to facilitate the reorganization" of the government on a fast-track basis. Volcker envisions the executive branch developing proposals in cooperation with Congress and other nongovernmental interests. "Once a proposal is sent to Congress, we recommend that it be given an up or down vote within a limited period of time."   Other important interim steps toward a complete overhaul that the government should include are improving the presidential appointments process and increasing judicial, executive and legislative salaries, Volcker said in testimony.

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Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Civil Service, Census and Agency Organization, said she views the commission report as a "guidepost for Congress as we begin our journey of reforming the federal government."   The timing is right, said Donna Shalala, a commission member. "The recommendations we made have everything to do with who we can attract" to government service, she said. "Our ability to recruit and retain a new generation of Americans to government has everything to do with these kinds of reform."

Pay System Reform

While much of the recent report from the National Commission on the Public Service—more commonly called the Volcker Commission—focused on familiar themes of reorganizing agencies, improving management flexibilities and emphasizing pay for performance, one recommendation—abolishing the general schedule—would take pay reform a step farther than previous similar reports on the civil service. Said the report, “a system like the general schedule that emphasizes internal equity in compensation will always demand constant tinkering to define ‘equal work’ so that it can ensure ‘equal pay.’” The report noted that nearly 20 percent of non-postal federal employees now work under other personnel systems, “many of which were enacted by Congress in response to the needs of high-impact agencies.” It recommended a default system in which the 15 pay grades would be consolidated into six to eight bands, with managers given authority to determine individual pay “based on competence and performance.” Certain agencies might want to design different systems, it said, “but that cannot happen until we have seen the

last of the general schedule.”

Office of Personnel Management officials in recent years have grown increasingly vocal in their criticisms of the GS system, which they say was crafted to reflect the needs of the government in very different times. Last year, OPM issued a “white paper” saying the pay system does not reflect market pay levels or encourage and reward achievement and results and precludes agencies from tailoring pay programs to their specific missions and labor markets. That paper, designed to be a starting point for broader discussions on pay reform, was put on the back burner late last year when the attention of civil service leaders focused mostly on issues involving creating the Department of Homeland Security. But the Volcker Commission report could bring that debate to the forefront again, possibly in the context of Senate hearings on proposals to push civil service reform beyond what was enacted last year as part of the DHS measure. 

Credit and Economy Woes

 The problem here is that too few people can make the distinction between civilian and service personnel when the term “federal employees” is used.   The Bush administration is seeking from Congress authority to require that agencies “evaluate the creditworthiness” of employees before issuing them a government purchase charge card or government travel charge card, the latest development in a series of

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measures designed to crack down on misuse of the cards. Under the plan, no card would be issued to anyone who either “lacks a credit history or is found to have an unsatisfactory credit history.” The exception would be that agencies could still issue to them restricted-use charge, debit or stored-value cards. The request also seeks to require agencies to establish guidelines for disciplinary actions to be taken against fraudulent or abusive use of charge cards and specifies removal or modification of security clearances as potential penalties. The General Accounting Office has issued a string of reports describing misuse of government charge cards, although many of the cited instances involved uniformed military personnel, not federal workers.

One furlough issue addressed?

The White House has asked Congress to enact authority for the government to continue operating if regular appropriations bills haven’t been passed by the start of a new fiscal year, saying the deadline hasn’t been met in 21 of the last 22 years. In most of those cases, special stopgap measures were enacted, but in several cases agencies were required to suspend operations and send employees home unpaid because the agency lacked funds. In each case employees later were paid as if they had worked, but the shutdowns were widely decried as needlessly disruptive. Under the proposal, if no funding measure is in place, funding would be automatically provided at the lower of the President’s budget or the prior year’s level.

Who is fighting on behalf of federal employees?

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., vowed

Tuesday in a speech before members of the National Treasury Employees Union to fight the Bush administration on behalf of federal workers.  “Repeatedly, the Bush administration has failed to treat federal employees with respect and dignity and that has got to stop,” Lieberman, a contender for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, told several hundred NTEU members. “I’m going to be watching¼this administration closely, and speaking out wherever and whenever its anti-union bias rears its ugly head.”  The senator said he wouldn’t hesitate to filibuster, or delay a vote indefinitely by speaking continuously on the Senate floor, to stop the administration [from stepping on employee rights] and protecting federal workers. “I know if the rules are fair and the playing ground is level, and that public servants will perform at the highest level,” Lieberman said.



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