Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pay For Performance; Good For Security

The next time you’re in the security line at your local airport, contemplating the 3-1-1 liquids rule or the possibility of making it home in time to tuck your kids into bed, take a quick look at the officers at the checkpoint.

Right there in front of you are some of the most tested professionals inside or outside of government. At any time, 24/7/365 TSA, DHS or GAO testers can and do test our officers’ ability to detect items that could be used in an attack. Our belief is that rewarding excellent performers is one way to motivate a workforce with a deadly serious job to do. Conversely, not rewarding mediocre performance based solely on seniority is a way to motivate people to step up or consider other career options.

Yesterday, our Deputy Administrator, Gale Rossides testified before members of Congress on TSA’s pay-for-performance compensation system. Along side colleagues from the intelligence and law enforcement communities, she clearly explained that our system provides incentives to the best performing officers. Nowhere is this more important than on the frontlines of our nation’s efforts to keep its citizens safe. We thought you might find her opening statement interesting and thought provoking. For her more comprehensive, written testimony, click here.

Oral Statement
Before the
JULY 22, 2008

Good afternoon, Chairman Akaka, Ranking Member Voinovich, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. I am pleased to be here today to discuss TSA's progress on our pay-for-performance system, known as PASS [Performance Accountability and Standards System].

I am honored to appear and represent the thousands of TSA employees, our Transportation Security Officers [TSOs], who serve to ensure the safety and security of 2 million passengers a day. These women and men are dedicated security professionals with one of the most difficult jobs in government. These Officers are the most tested in the Federal workforce. Contrary to what so often is the headline grabber about attrition, 22,000 of our Officers have been with TSA from the beginning. They have participated in the largest stand-up of a Federal agency in fifty years. They have stayed with us as we responded to the evolving threat by continuously enhancing the security process, while also building the infrastructure and the human capital system to properly pay, train, reward, and recognize their performance. They stayed for the mission.

There are two reasons TSA relies on pay for performance. Security is the first and foremost. Second, it is to instill a culture of high performance and accountability in our workforce.

Performance on the job has a special meaning for us. Let me be very direct. Our job is to stop a terrorist attack. Our Officers work in an environment in which 99.9 percent of the people they see every day are not a threat, but the threats against our aviation system remain. TSOs want to get passengers through the security checkpoint with a high degree of confidence that they have stopped anyone seeking to do harm—your safety is their priority.

How does PASS improve security? When you get paid more to do a better job, you do a better job. PASS is targeted to reward excellent performance. That is an incentive to perform at the highest level to which you are capable. PASS rewards the individual performance necessary to achieve TSA's organizational goals and that increases security.

TSA's pay-for-performance system is driven by validated data. Its performance metrics are standardized, measurable, observable and almost completely objective. PASS has been adjusted based on feedback from our Officers about what the real job is.

Our Officers have told us they want a pay-for-performance system because they know what is at stake: they want to know that their fellow officers are equally competent. But building a pay-for-performance system takes time. It takes employee engagement. It takes leadership. It takes flexibilities in the human capital system. It takes continuous improvement and it takes constant communication. But for us, it is essential. In my thirty years of Federal service, twenty-three of them with the General Schedule, I have never been more sure of anything: The pay-for-performance system is the best way in this post 9/11 environment, for TSA to manage and ensure the quality of persons on the front line.

The effectiveness of PASS is proven by the statistics. More than half of our TSO workforce has been on the job for four years or more. The 2007 DHS Annual Employee Survey validates that 94 percent of TSOs said the work they do is important. Eighty-three percent said they know how their work relates to the agency's goals and priorities.

TSA supervisors have a significant stake in the PASS program as well, and they are evaluated on how effectively and fairly they administer it. Successful implementation of the program is a component of their own PASS ratings.

At TSA, pay for performance ensures the technical proficiency of the people on the front line. Our goal is for our Officers to be switched on and always at the ready. Pay for performance drives their higher level of performance because their earning power is directly tied to their learning power.
The Senior Leadership Team of TSA is passionately dedicated to our people and the principles of pay-for-performance. We are committed to using the flexible human capital system provided under ATSA to make TSA a model performance-based organization. We are building a culture in which our workforce is actively engaged. It is through listening and working collaboratively with all of our Officers to find solutions that we will continue to meet our challenges.

While significant advances are being made in our technology and security processes, each day's success begins and ends with our Officers. They are TSA's greatest investment. They are everyday heroes. In this war on terror, the individual motivation of our Officers to excel is critical to our success. We rely on the best to do the best at this security job. Pay-for-performance is vital to sustaining this top performing workforce.

TSA Blog Team