Department Of Homeland Security Raises Personnel Issues

IT officials will need to adopt single platform to build employee database.

The Homeland Security Department expected to be authorized by Congress this week will create a 170,000-employee organization that will pull personnel from what are now 22 separate agencies, including the Coast Guard, Customs, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. One problem facing agency planners: How to integrate all the personnel data from those agencies into a system that can deliver a single view of workers at the new super-agency.

IT officials at some federal departments slated for absorption believe a single platform will have to be agreed upon and deployed to build a common employee database. That could be good news for HR software vendor PeopleSoft Inc., whose applications already are in use at a number of the agencies involved. "Many of the potentials for this new department are already on PeopleSoft, so that could provide the basis for a good fit," says David Swatloski, chief of the office for information technology and human resources at the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard had been moving to a hosted PeopleSoft system that Swatloski says could integrate with other agencies' systems because it's built largely on Web standards. It hopes to go live on the system in March.

Solving thorny personnel issues will be crucial to the new department's ability to carry out its mandate, observers say. To the dismay of civil-service union leaders, the Bush administration fought for, and won, the right to reassign employees pulled into the new department and change the way they are hired, disciplined, and paid.

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