HEARING OF THE OVERSIGHT OF GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT, THE FEDERAL WORKFORCE AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE SENATE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE
SUBJECT: THE NOMINATION OF JOHN BERRY TO BE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT
CHAIRED BY: SENATOR DANIEL AKAKA (D-HI)
WITNESS: THE NOMINEE TESTIFIES
Copyright ©2009 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at email@example.com or call 1-202-216-2706.
Back Save transcript E-mail transcript Print transcript
SEN. AKAKA: This hearing will come to order. I want to say aloha and welcome to all of you. It is obvious that this is a joyous moment for all of you who are here today. And the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs meets to consider the nomination of Mr. John Berry to be director of the Office of Personnel Management.
Mr. Berry is a native of Washington, D.C. and a graduate of the University of Maryland, and Syracuse University Maxwell School of Public Administration (sic). Mr. Berry is a lifelong public servant. He currently is the director of the National Zoo, where he successfully shepherded a 20-year Facilities Master Plan for the Zoo, which the National Capital Planning Commission approved in November of 2008.
He has worked in a variety of posts in the Smithsonian Institution, the Department of Interior and the Department of the Treasury. In addition to serving the people of Maryland while working in the Montgomery County government and the Maryland state senate, of course, Mr. Berry also served as Congressman Steny Hoyer's legislative director for 10 years. With your experience in Congress, I expect we will have a particularly cooperative and productive working relationship between OPM and the Congress if you are confirmed.
I'm delighted to welcome my good friends also, my good friend Senator Ben Cardin and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who are here to introduce Mr. Berry. We appreciate you taking the time to speak on his behalf and welcome your thoughts. I know you both are very busy, and, in the interest of time, we would welcome any statement you have now.
I'm going to call on Senator Cardin to begin, because --
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Well, Senator Akaka, if I might, if I could defer to Congressman Hoyer, I think it would be appropriate for him to go first.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much Mr. Maryland (sic). I mean, --
Thank you very much Senator Cardin. I certainly would -- I wish we had time for me to tell you some stories about the leader, Hoyer. As you know, I was in the House, and those were great days, and lots to tell. But, at this moment I'd like to call on Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, of the U.S. House of Representatives -- a great man who has served so well, for his statement and his comments on John Berry.
Senator Hoyer (sic) -- Leader Hoyer.
HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER STENY HOYER (D-MD): Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for your warm welcome. I thank my dear friend, one of my closest friends in life, Ben Cardin, for yielding to me.
I am totally subjective on the subject of John Berry. (Laughter.) I believe John Berry is one of the most extraordinary, good and decent and able human beings I have met in my entire lifetime. I could end my statement perhaps at that point, suffice it to say that I think he will perform an extraordinary service for federal employees, for the Obama administration, for the federal government and for the American people. So I thank you for giving me this opportunity.
I first came, Mr. Chairman, to appreciate John's talents when he served for a decade as my legislative director. You probably first met him in that capacity, as you and I were seatmates on the Treasury- Postal subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. We sat next to one another for many years -- along with our chairman, Chairman Roybal, and your role in that committee was critical.
In the role that John played for me, he was an essential part of shaping policy affecting all federal employees, and the legislation that structures their salaries, Mr. Chairman, to this day bears John's stamp. From the beginning of his career in public service, John has had an excellent grasp of the issues and challenges confronting our 1.8 million federal civilian employees.
He's also proven himself as a highly skilled administrator. As assistant secretary of the Interior for Planning, Management and Budget, John won the respect of his employees and repeatedly stood up for government workers who were targeted for discrimination because of their sexual orientation. And as executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, John proved himself to be an ardent conservationist as well.
Today, he brings together his skills in administration and conservation as director of the National Zoological Park, as you have pointed out, a job in which he oversees a budget of nearly $40 million, 240 employees, and perhaps most impressively, more than 2,000 wild animals. As director, John has dedicated himself to revitalizing the Zoo's facilities, as you pointed out as well, making them safer and more welcoming for families and attracting thousands more visitors with such special events as winter's "ZooLights." He has also strengthened the zoo's standing as an international leader in animal conservation and research.
Those are just a few, Mr. Chairman and Senator Voinovich, of John's many, many accomplishments. They speak to a creative intellect -- and I would stop on that part of my statement. One of the strengths that John Berry brings to any task that he confronts is that creativeness, that flexibility, that willingness to look at things in a different way if the way that we were looking at them didn't work. That was one of the great strengths he brought to my staff.
I tell people that if there are 100 ways to do something and you told John, each time that he went through the first 99, that he couldn't do it that way, he would find the 100th successful way to do it. That will be an extraordinarily important skill that he will bring to his directorship of the Office of Personnel Management.
He has a dedication to service that those who have worked with John know firsthand. It was my privilege, as you pointed out, to work with John Berry for over a decade, and, very frankly, every year since he left my staff. Of course, Senator, I tell people they can go off the payroll, but that they can't go off the staff. And I never really feel that John was ever off the staff because I worked very, very closely with him in so many different ways.
I would urge his confirmation with dispatch. I can assure you that it is my view that he will make all of us very proud -- this committee, the United States Senate, the Obama administration and our country -- proud of his leadership, his service. And every employee who has the benefit of his focus will believe that they have a true advocate, an able spokesperson and a very caring person serving them and serving our government. And I thank you for this opportunity to testify on his behalf.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, from the U.S. House of Representatives, for your statement. Really appreciate this.
REP. HOYER: Thank you.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you. I know you are busy.
REP. HOYER: Well, I'm going to -- I want to hear Senator Cardin's statement. (Laughter.) I know it will be brilliant and, therefore, want to hear it. (Laughter.
) And I'm very pleased to be with my good friend Senator Voinovich as well.
SEN. AKAKA: Without further ado --
SEN. CARDIN: Well, Senator Akaka, thank you very much.
Senator Voinovich, I really wanted to be here to see whether we had to hold Congressman Hoyer in contempt of the Senate. (Laughter.) I'm glad that his remarks today were aimed at John Berry and not beyond.
But first, let me just concur in everything that the majority leader has said about John Berry. We're very proud of his public service. We thank you very much for your continued willingness to want the serve our nation, and we thank you, and we thank your entire family for the sacrifices that you make.
Steny Hoyer is right. We have an extraordinary person who has the strong support of Senator Mikulski and myself. John has devoted his life to public and community service and he's done it with great distinction. He has vast administrative experience, which I think is going to serve him very well at OPM, and he has good judgment and unquestioned integrity.
And I think that really sums it up. You know, we've gone over his background. He survived serving as the legislative director for Congressman Hoyer. I know that was a difficult task, but he served with great distinction in the House. He has great administrative experience in several agencies, from Treasury to Interior to the Smithsonian. He's served in the private sector, and a nonprofit with the Wildlife Foundation.
I mean, he brings, I think, the right package of experience to a very difficult job at OPM. And I wholeheartedly endorse his nomination, and recommend to the committee that we move quickly on his confirmation.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much, Senator Cardin, for your statement.
And again I want to thank both of you for your statements.
Before I call on our ranking member, I'll permit you the chance of departing -- yes.
(Off mike, laughter.)
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much.
I want to also, further, before I call on Senator Voinovich, to welcome the family of John Berry. I understand that you have some family members and friends in the audience today, and I want to give them the opportunity to present them to the committee. So, will you please do that at this point in time?
MR. BERRY: Senator, I'm very honored to. Thank you so much for the opportunity.
I'd like to start if I could with my sister, Maureen Raymo (ph) and her husband Arthur Raymo (ph); and her two children, Anne Abbas (ph) -- her husband is a member of the Capitol Hill Police force, sir, and is on duty today so he couldn't be here with us, but Anne and her sister Betsy, Betsy Raymo (ph), and her boyfriend, Luke Meyer (ph).
And then my brother is here with his family, my brother Joseph Berry, his wife Jody (ph) and their son Thomas. And then my partner, sir -- from Honolulu, Hawaii, for the past 12 and-a-half years, Curtis Yee, as well.
SEN. : (Off mike, laughter.)
MR. BERRY: Thank you sir, I appreciate the opportunity.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much.
I'm going to withhold my statement. What I'm going to plan to do, because we -- I just discovered we have a vote on the floor, and the time is running on that. I'm going to give the time to Ranking Member Voinovich to make his statement, then we'll be back after recess and I'll give my statement, and we'll have Mr. Berry make his statement.
SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R-OH): It's a short one, which is good.
First of all, I think it's a real tribute to you that Senator Cardin's here, and your old boss thinks enough of you to come around and say you're a terrific guy. And the fact that you've stayed in touch with him over the years is a real tribute to the relationship that you've built with Steny. And I have a great deal of respect for Representative Hoyer. We've known each other a long time. He's a really -- he's one of the good guys, as far as I'm concerned. (Laughter.)
It's a pleasure for me to review your qualifications and I'm looking forward to hearing your plans for OPM. My experience as a county auditor, and commissioner, and mayor and governor have underscored for me the importance of human capital. And one of the things that I've tried to do, and Senator Akaka -- we've been working on this for eight years, to try and deal with human capital, and to give the Office of Personnel Management a lot of flexibility so that we can go out and hire the right people and retain them and reward them.
We know that there's lots of improvements that still need to be made to that, and, as I mentioned to you when you were in the office, I'm going to expect from you, and I suspect that Senator Akaka is, you know, after you get in the saddle, I want you to come back to us -- even, it doesn't have to be a hearing, come back, maybe we will meet you in our office -- to talk about your observations and what needs to be done over there.
But immediately, I think you really need to look at the issue of the people that the administration is going to need, in their respective departments, to implement the stimulus package. And Senator Akaka and I have asked OMB to come back with us with a list of the agencies and, you know, where are they, in terms of the people that you're going to need. In many instances, that they're only going to be on for two years, and then the question is, "How do you get them on?"
And there are lots of flexibilities that are available to departments. And one of my frustrations, and Senator Akaka's, is people aren't using them. And you could, you know, if you talked to the administration, maybe grant a waiver, and just say to the departments, this is available to you so you can go out there and hire the folks that you need.
The other thing, of course, is our whole system of hiring people. We really are unhappy with that. We're in the dark ages, if you look at where we are, compared with the private sector. We have a little break right now, Mr. Berry, because of the fact the economy's so bad and I think a lot of our federal workers are going to want to stay on a little longer than they might ordinarily.
But the fact is, things are going to get better and we're going to be out there competing for the best and the brightest, and if we don't have a recruitment -- or a program in place that makes sense, we're going to fall behind.
So that's the end of my statement. We look forward to working with you.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much.
I was going to interrupt him to say that I regard Senator Voinovich as a champion of human capital, and so we're fortunate to -- well, I am, fortunate to be working with him on this, and look forward to doing that.
But, I understand we have about less than five minutes left in a vote, so this committee will be in recess for a few minutes. (Sounds gavel.)
SEN. AKAKA: (In progress.) -- being so patient. (Sounds gavel.) This hearing will come to order.
Mr. Berry has filed responses to a biographical and financial questionnaire, answered pre-hearing questions submitted by the committee, and had his financial statements reviewed by the Office of Government Ethics. Without objection, this information will be made a part of the record with the exception of the financial data. They're on file and available for public inspection at the committee offices.
As I said before, I want to make an opening statement, but at this time I'll ask unanimous consent that my statement be included in the record.
And we'll continue with the process that we do here in this committee and to ask that Mr. Berry -- to please stand and raise your right hand. We require than an oath be given to our witnesses.
(The witness is sworn in.)
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you. Let it be noted in the record that the witness answered in the affirmative.
So, Mr. Berry, this is your time. I'm sorry that we took the time -- we had three votes instead of one. So, we (are) happy to be here. So, please proceed with your statement?
MR. BERRY: Mr. Chairman and Senator Voinovich, thank you so much. I'm deeply honored to be here with you today, and appreciate you taking this time to hear from me.
My entire career has been one of public service, both as an employee and a manager. I was raised to appreciate the importance of service and the opportunity for good that it affords. My father volunteered for the Marine Corps before Pearl Harbor and was in the first Marine division at Guadalcanal. My Uncle Jack, for whom I am named, served as a Marine fighter pilot and lost his life in battle in the Pacific. My mother worked full-time as an x-ray technician, but also served with the Census Bureau in her later years.
It was the highest honor of my life when President Obama called to ask me to serve his administration in this critically important position. I only wish my parents had lived to see this day, as it was their firm belief in the power of education, their love of country, and their constant and enduring love for me, my sister and my brother that made this day and opportunity possible.
Our country today faces many challenges. I believe that the reason our nation has not only faced, but overcome every challenge in our history is because, during every one of those times, men and women of good will, keen minds and strong hearts have always stepped forward to aid their nation through service, both in government and in our armed forces. The Civil Service today carries forward that proud American tradition.
Whether it is defending our homeland against attack, restoring confidence in our financial systems in administering a historic stimulus effort, ensuring adequate health care for our veterans and fellow citizens, or searching for cures to the diseases that plague us, we are fortunate to have the best and the brightest to rely upon. It is our people who are our most important tool in facing any challenge, and we forget that at our peril.
I pledge to this committee that if I am confirmed I will, to the best of my abilities, work my heart out on behalf of the men and women of our Civil Service, both active and retired, and defend the merit system with the same rigor as Teddy Roosevelt. Just as he established a firm foundation for the success of the Civil Service in the 20th century, we must today bring the same vigor to guarantee a Civil Service ready for the challenges of the 21st century.
The pressures and demands on OPM are great, nearly as serious as those of its predecessor, the Civil Service Commission, which it successfully met in the 1930s and '40s. I believe OPM and its talented employees are ready to rise to these new challenges once again. We face a new reality. In the next decade, there will be a significant increase in the percentage of federal employees eligible to retire. We need to consider and craft creative approaches that will allow us to engage the skills and experience of our own retirees and the nation's aging population.
At the same time, we must balance our response to this trend with training, mentoring and providing opportunities for promotion for the new generation entering and advancing through our workforce. The youth of today may not envision staying with one employer for the entirety of their careers. We need to balance and mix flexible benefit approaches attractive to younger entrants to the workforce with our existing more traditional model to appeal to the broadest possible range of workers.
We need to reach out and attract, as I've said, the best and the brightest from all backgrounds and walks of life, and recognize that in our fast-changing world we must constantly develop job skills through training. We must commit to training our managers as well, to enable them to face the many complex challenges that confront us today.
We need to expect the best from every worker, and we must ensure effective approaches to encouraging, evaluating and rewarding superior performance, as well as correcting shortfalls. In exchange, we need to provide competitive pay and benefits, healthy model workplace environments and sensitivity to employees' responsibility to their families and loved ones.
Finally, we need to honor those who have served their country well, both in the armed services and in the Civil Service, by ensuring their dignity during their retirement. It is my opinion that, as the nation's largest employer, we should be its model employer. We should seek to adopt the best practices for every piece of our human resource operations.
One of the first things I would seek to do, if confirmed, would be to convene a good cross-section of practitioners and thinkers from across the government, involving the private sector, the nonprofit world, academia, unions and managers who can help us define, what are the current best practices in use today across the nation?
I look forward to learning from them what has worked well and what has failed, and I look forward to working with you and your staff to build a consensus for what might be possible in advancing our government towards the title of "model employer." I ask for your support both now and, if confirmed, in the years ahead as we seek to maintain the final (sic) Civil Service of the world.
Thank you, and I'm prepared to answer any questions that you might have.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much, Mr. Berry.
I will begin with standard questions this committee asks of all nominees. First, is there anything you are aware of in your background that might present a conflict of
First, is there anything you are aware of in your backgroundthat might present a conflict of interest with the duties of the office to which you have been nominated?
MR. BERRY: Nothing that I'm aware of, sir.
SEN. AKAKA: Second, do you know of anything, personal or otherwise, that would in any way prevent you from fully and honorably discharging the responsibilities of the office to which you have been nominated?
MR. BERRY: Not that I'm aware of, sir.
SEN. AKAKA: And finally, do you agree, without reservation, to respond to any reasonable summons to appear and testify before any duly constituted committee of Congress if you are confirmed?
MR. BERRY: I do.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much.
Mr. Berry, I should tell you, many of what you had mentioned in your statement sounds like Senator Voinovich -- and we've talked about this in the past, and, of course, we look forward to working with those ideas.
There are many challenges facing human capital management in the federal government, including addressing staffing shortages in critical occupations, modernizing federal benefits, fixing the broken hiring process, and a variety of other issues. If confirmed, what will be your top priorities?
MR. BERRY: I think, Mr. Chairman -- just to expand a little bit, when I say that I would like the federal government to be the best employer, the "model employer" for the country, I sort of shortened my statement. I hope, with your indulgence, the whole statement would be included in the record.
I think of that as in each category of our human capital, human resource management functions. So, if you break that into, sort of, the traditional functions that you think of -- recruitment, hiring, retention, pay and benefits, appraisal systems, discipline systems, retirement, labor-management relations, in each of those we ought to be following the best practices. We need to -- we need to put in place what works. And I believe that there are many of those the federal government may already be, you know, using the model practice, we may be the model employer in a number of those areas.
But in other areas, there's no question but that we have to do better. I know that you and Senator Voinovich have been leaders in looking and examining each of these processes, and have put in place many great improvements over the years. Hiring is one that is still broken. And, despite all of our best efforts, the Civil Servants at OPM have worked very hard, and tirelessly, to put in place and to take advantage of new authorities which you all have given to the agency.
But it still is an arduous process, and oftentimes we're losing good talent. We're not getting the best and the brightest because they've already been snatched away or hired to other positions. And so I think the first is to determine what are those best practices, but it's clear that hiring has got to be at the first step, and the first and foremost of looking at those practices to make that work better.
SEN. AKAKA: Well, thank you.
You mentioned that you would like your statement be included in the record. It will. It will be included in the record.
MR. BERRY: Thank you, sir.
SEN. AKAKA: Mr. Berry, the Partnership for Public Service ranked OPM 25th out of 30 large federal agencies in its 2007 rankings for the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. Strategic management and effective leadership were two of OPM's lowest scores. In addition to your government-wide human resources role as the head of OPM, you will be responsible for improving the management and human capital in your own agency. How do you plan to tackle this challenge?
MR. BERRY: I think, Mr. Chairman, it's -- the approach, with good management, is, I believe, works the same everywhere.
It's the job of the director, of the leader of an agency, to lay out a very clear vision for what he or she expects the agency to be accomplishing. And I look forward to doing that if I'm confirmed. You've heard, essentially, my vision today is I want us to be the best, the model employer for the country -- and for the world, for that matter, and everything about that I will do will flow from that vision.
I believe that the strategic plan that would have to be put in place, we will have to identify clear and measurable steps -- that will be accountable to both the Congress, to the committee and, quite frankly, to the employees, that we're making solid progress towards that ultimate vision of being the best; of identifying, what are the steps, what are the short-term, medium-term and longer-term steps that need to be taken to accomplish that; and then to go after them, full bore, with enthusiasm.
I'm a believer that a leader has to be a person of good cheer. I think of optimism as the nectar of progress. And if you believe in your vision, and you empower your people to work towards that end -- and hold them accountable as you go, regularly checking in and saying, how (are) we doing; are we making clear progress towards the goals that we would set up for how we're measuring ourself to be the best, the model workforce, and regularly checking in -- we will get clear, defined progress towards that goal, what I would hope over my tenure.
And I think right now, that's what the employees at OPM are desirous of. They want a clear vision. They want to know that -- they know how important the mission is to protect the merit system. They know how critical it is to get the best and the brightest in. They are not defenders of red tape. They want to make this work right. And, and my commitment to you is I will run to keep up with them, and make sure that together we accomplish the vision that I'd be promising you today.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much.
Let me call on Senator Voinovich for his questions.
SEN. VOINOVICH: Just to follow up a little bit about what Senator Akaka was talking about.
The issue is, how would you go about management and employee satisfaction? Are there best practices for agencies that you'd visit that have best practices, to find out what they're doing? And I get the impression that you're going to go in and kind of look it over and then do it yourself.
Are you familiar with the plans that Linda Springer had, for example, in terms of her moving the agency forward? How are you going to go about doing that, because I think it's very, very important. I'd like your -- how do you intend to do that?
MR. BERRY: Absolutely, senator. First, if I conveyed anything that -- conveyed that I would do it myself, I didn't mean to do such.
A leader is a member of a team, and it can only go as far as the team will take them. And, you know, it is a two-way street, leadership. You have to -- you need to lay out a vision, but then you need to listen to your team on how to implement that vision.
I think Director Springer's strategic plan was a good one for her period, and we need to -- it's essentially come to its end. It needs to, as any strategic plan, to be renegotiated and rebuilt in light of a new administration and a new team, and that needs to be done in concert with the other federal human resource officers across the government.
I think that the Capital -- the CHCO panel that has been put in place is a wonderful model. Having the human resource managers and the human capital officers regularly get together, it would be my intention to be an active participant and the chair of that organization -- that I would be convening it regularly, setting the agenda, listening to what the issues of the day, for those folks, are, so that we can be responsive.
SEN. VOINOVICH: What I'm really interested in is the method that you'd go about -- you're the new boss, you got 5,800 working for you, and you're coming in; and, in terms of your priorities -- it gets back to what Senator -- (inaudible) -- how are you going to go about doing it? What's the vision about how I'm going to (come ?)? It's a new organization. What am I going to do in order to move it out of a place where people don't feel that good about the management and the employee satisfaction?
MR. BERRY: Well, the first thing is you've got to get a team in place, and so I'd be working with the president to appoint a team. I think he has made three outstanding appointments, that I'm aware of so far, that I've been consulted on in that process as well. And if I was confirmed --
SEN. VOINOVICH: Are you happy with those people?
MR. BERRY: Very much so, sir. I think each one of the three that have been announced would classify, in anyone's standard, as amongst the best and the brightest in their fields. They're outstanding professionals and I very much look forward to working with them.
So there's essentially three out of the five have already been named, and my understanding is the remaining two are just on the cusp of being named in the near future. And --
SEN. VOINOVICH: Well, actually there are six appointments to the OPM that are presidential appointments.
MR. BERRY: Right. The five -- two more are ready to go; the third one has -- you know, is tee'd up a little farther down the line.
But I think there will be -- the goal is, first to get a team together. That's job one. Job two is to meet with all of the employees, with the managers, with each of the units of OPM; get a firm understanding of what's going on in the agency; and then have town hall meetings where you could meet with all of the employees of OPM to allow open and access, in terms of what's going on, what are the biggest issues of your concern, what do you think has been working well, what do you think needs more attention -- and hear that, and allow accessibility.
I hope that we'll also -- that's not going to be a once a month event. We'll have regular meetings, if I'm confirmed in this position. But, we'll also have other forums to accept information from all employees. We'll have websites where people -- you know, essentially, open suggestion boxes; and we'll have -- the ombudsman role, in agencies where I have been, has been a very effective one, where people can go if they feel there's something there that is -- they don't want to stand up and put their name on but it's still important and needs attention, they can go to the ombudsman and bring it forward.
So my goal would be to throw that net within the agency. But you don't stop at the borders of the agency, Senator, in my opinion, you've got to throw that net throughout the federal government, because OPM is a servant of the federal government. We're there to service the other agencies. And we can't just be meeting at the CHCO level, we need to meet with secretaries, the deputy secretaries. I need to go around and meet with each agency, not only at the senior levels but also to give those opportunities -- the same opportunities to the employees there. What do you feel works in your agency with human resources? What do you think needs attention?
And I look forward to being able to do that. I think the Public ServiceCommission has done a great job with that. There's a lot of work that's been done between Grant Thornton and these committees, so you know, you don't -- you're not starting from scratch. But I think it's important for any new director, whoever you would put into this position, that they be willing to go out and do the "shoe leather," not to run this office from the office at 19th and Virginia Avenue. They've got to be omnipresent throughout the federal government, and that would be my intention to do that.
SEN. VOINOVICH: I'm concerned about that, because the best way I think that you can help other agencies is to get your agency working the way it is, in terms of management and in terms of employee satisfaction, so that you can use your agency as a role model for -- because if your agency is working like a top, then you're going to be able to service the rest of these other agencies in the federal government.
MR. BERRY: Right.
SEN. VOINOVICH: And I would be really hesitant about -- you're going to have to spend the next couple of years really shaping that joint up, okay? And there's a lot -- there's been improvements, but that's, you know, that's where you've got their, you know, key things, like the whole issue of federal hiring. We're in the, you know, the dark ages, in terms of federal hiring. Big thing. If you can get streamlined, just think of not only the change it'll make in your agency, but what impact that'll have on the rest of the other federal agencies.
The same thing with the retirement system. They tried to put that on a computer there. They still keep the records for retirees with pieces of paper. And you got a lot of people that are very unhappy -- you know, at the end of their career, they don't, you know, they don't know what, you know, what they're going to get. It's a, you know, confusing situation.
It's flexibilities that you may need in your department that others -- I mean, one of the things that Senatory Akaka and I have legislation to deal with, with people who want to work at the tail end of their career in a part-time basis, where that won't interfere with the status of their annuities. In agencies where you're bringing on new people it's a way to keeping them in place and getting the benefit of that.
But I really think that your main goal is to shape up that operation and be the number one, in terms of employee satisfaction. And, you know, and go over to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who has the best record of them all, and say, you know, what are you guys doing over here that makes a difference? And, can I copy some of the ideas that you have here in my agency? And I think your idea of meeting with your managers is a terrific idea, you know.
My problem, and I'll end with this, but I lobbied this place for 18 years, as a mayor and as a governor, and I saw one administration after another -- and the new secretaries came in, the deputy secretaries, the associates and all the rest of them, and it always seemed that what they did is they ignored the "A team," the team that was there, the team that knew what was going on. And rarely did they get called upon to ask them about how they could improve their own performance.
And, you know, that's the kind of stuff that I'd like to see. And and later on, if you get in the saddle, I think we'll have you back maybe to visit with you about that, or maybe even in our offices. (Laughs.)
MR. BERRY: Great.
SEN. VOINOVICH: Thank you.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much, Senator Voinovich.
Mr. Berry, for more than a decade departments and agencies have sought, and been granted, personnel authorities outside of (the) government-wide framework. Many have claimed that their unique missions require unique flexibilities. This has created many different personnel systems across the federal government and even within departments and agencies. Do you believe that this is efficient and effective, or is a more comprehensive approach needed?
MR. BERRY: Mr. Chairman, I think the federal government may be so big I don't want to say that, you know, one size will fit all. I don't have any sacred cow, if you will, that I come into this with, other than one principle, and that is the merit principles which basically say we should hire people who can do the job because they have the skills to do the job, and we evaluate them only by how well they do that job, and nothing else.
And as long as we keep that -- that has to be "the pole star," that has to be our constant, sort of, evaluative tool. If we are protecting that, then I think we can look at flexibilities and differences.
But, at some point we have to be careful -- and I think you've raised this in your question, sir, the federal government does have to treat like employees similarly. And we can't say to one employee over here, who risks their life and is doing everything that they can to serve their country, to the employee over here who's doing the exact same on a day-by-day basis, "well, this person gets paid more than you do," or "this person is treated differently than you do." So, we've got to be careful about that.
You know, I think there could be periods where we can -- there may be flexibilities that we can do fairly, and legally and meet our constitutional standards, but we do need to periodically step back and look at it and say, is it still accomplishing the objective we want? Is it protecting the merit system principle? And is it a accomplishing the objective we want of having the best and the brightest?
And if it is, then we might be able to still allow those flexibilities. If not, I think we need to work together, the Congress and the executive branch, to look at these to ensure that there is fairness across the board and not duplication. You know, and a lot of these things sometimes -- sometimes things are started with good, very good intent, and they might work for awhile, but then over time they fall into the same bad habits, if you will, that the old system had. And, you know, if it's not working, whether it be an old system or a new system, we ought to change it. We ought to fix it. It ought to work and it ought to be the best.
And that's the spirit that I would bring to this. I don't come into this with any ideological bent of saying "everything has got to be the same, or "everything has got to, you know -- we've got to protect everything that's in existence." We need to look at everything with fresh eyes and say, is it the best? Is this doing what we want it to do?
And do that jointly. I mean, I think the passion that you and Senator Voinovich have brought to these issues over your entire careers -- you have a wealth of experience and insights into these issues, and you hear from your constituents, we need to incorporate that into the evaluation of these systems and make sure we are doing the right thing.
So, bottom line, Senator, is, if you confirm me, I don't come into this with any predisposition to say, you know -- no prejudice, if you will, other than accomplishing the best and what works the best.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you.
During the previous administration, Mr. Berry, employee unions and other stakeholder groups often were not given an opportunity to have meaningful input into major policy initiatives. Having a buy-in from key stockholder (sic) groups goes a long way to ensuring the success of any initiative. How do you plan to engage employee stakeholders groups and provide them an avenue to provide meaningful input into policy initiatives?
MR. BERRY: Mr. Chairman, I think that's a great question, and one which I fully agree that we need to work in partnership. Labor and management need to work together to accomplish the same objective, which is the service of the American public and providing the best service to the American public.
And I've been honored to work at the Treasury Department, the Interior Department and at the Smithsonian Institution. And at each of those places, to varying degrees, I've been able to improve and enhance that sense of partnership. It's not a hard thing to do if you're willing to have open and fair communication. That's one of the first tests.
And my promise to both sides, both our management organizations and our labor organizations, is if I'm confirmed in this position, I will not -- there will not be surprises. I'm not a shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy. I will bring them all in on a regular basis and they will have open access to me and to -- I believe our job is to also make sure that's going on in each of the agencies. We need to create that spirit of partnership.
And if you have that open and transparent sense of communication and trust, then great things can happen. At the Department of Interior, when I got there, a lot of the things that you all have been talking about today were in existence. The politicals were not appreciating the career civil servants. There was not a good communication just between the political and the career side. There was not good communication between labor and management.
And one of the things I did was to roll my sleeves up and say, this has got to be different, we have got to -- we can't work unless this is hand-in-glove. And if you approach it with that spirit, by the time I left -- I think anyone would tell you, whether they be on the labor side of the aisle or the management side of the aisle, is that partnership worked. It worked well and it produced great things for the employees. The morale went up; the sense of pride in mission went up; and, quite frankly, the effectiveness of the agency went up as a result as well.
So, it is an essential thing that we do well. And if you give me this job, I will work hard in making sure that happens, both within OPM and throughout the government.
SEN. AKAKA: Well, thank you very much for that.
Just to go back to what Senator Voinovich was expressing here, the point that if you can do all of this within your agency, and make it work, then, you know, we can use it in other places as well.
Let me call on Senator Voinovich for his further questions.
SEN. VOINOVICH: As chairman, and now ranking member of this subcommittee since 1999, we've worked hard to get flexibilities to ensure the federal government has the right people, with the right knowledge and skills, at the right place and at the right time. And if you look at the screwups that have happened during the last number of years, it's basically because we haven't had those people.
We provided flexibilities, and, quite frankly, as I mentioned earlier, they haven't used the flexibilities. And it's discouraging that, you know, they're available and they're not using (them). And they need to, and that's I think, that's where OPM should be out there talking to folks, why aren't you using these flexibilities?
Others, such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NASA, have received unique authority outside of Title 5, and it's interesting that they remain at the top of the Best Places to Work rankings. And what I'd like to know is, what are your views on whether recruitment, retention and relocation incentives should be continued, perhaps enhanced, or whether individual Executive Branch agencies should be authorized to establish their own personnel systems?
MR. BERRY: Senator, I think those are incredibly powerful tools, and you, and the chairman and members in the House have been forward- thinking in establishing them. The federal government needs to utilize them. You can't get the best and the brightest unless you have those tools to compete, and you've done that. We need to make them effective. We need to make sure that agencies understand that they have them and utilize them fully, because otherwise you can't be competitive.
Relocation benefits is a classic case. I have worked in situations where -- before that authority existed, when the federal government couldn't, and we would regularly lose people because we couldn't -- you know, it cost $10,000 to $20,000 to move your family from the Midwest or from the West Coast to the East, or visa versa. And, you know, people can't pay that out of their own pockets, especially, you know, look at the economy today.
So, as an employer, we've got to take advantage of those flexibilities and we've got to make them work. And I look forward to working with you -- I'm a big supporter of "don't lose tools in the tool belt," and you've given them, been kind enough to give them. If they're about to expire, I hope you'll help us to extend them.
SEN. VOINOVICH: The security clearance process has been on the list -- high-risk list since 1990.
As much as we have tried to change that, we haven't been successful, have we Senator Akaka?
SEN. AKAKA: (Laughs.)
SEN. VOINOVICH: And there was a major undertaking by the head of the National Security Agency at the (NID ?) and several of the -- four top people, okay, the Center for Counterterrorism. And are you familiar at all with what they were doing? (inaudible) they're going to come back -- they looked at the security clearance -- they hired somebody, like, the CIA person a long -- maybe four or five years ago. She was supposed to come in and do it. It didn't work. And they came back and said, we're going to get this done right. Are you at all familiar with the work that they've done?
MR. BERRY: Senator, I think a great of that's classified, and so I've not been able to access it in preparing for this hearing.
I can tell you, as someone who has held five security clearances in his government service -- the highest being code word "above top secret" when I was at the Treasury Department, there are major problems with it. And there are duplications -- you know, for example, in my own case, Sister Hillarian (ph) was my first-grade teacher. After that was verified in 1985, I'm not sure why Sister Hillarian (ph) has to be re-approached every time as if she's never been talked to before.
So, I can just tell you, my experience with it is, it seems to me -- you know, now, I recognize we've got to move with extreme caution in this area, the Defense Department, the counterterrorism, homeland security, we will have to work in deep concert with them because this is too important to mess up. I mean, you know, you can't screw this up.
But, at the same time, there's got to be great efficiencies that can be achieved here. I would look forward, if I was confirmed in the job, of working with all of those agencies to try to make it more efficient.
SEN. VOINOVICH: Well at this stage of the game, the Department of Defense, the Office of Budget and Management, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence -- now I'm getting to the names of these agencies, (laughter) and the Office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and OPM have developed plans to improve the timeliness and effectiveness of the security clearance process.
They've set some goals for 2009, and obviously you haven't had a chance to familiarize yourself, but I would like you to do that; and I'd like to find out whether or not you support those plans and those goals.
MR. BERRY: Yes sir.
SEN. VOINOVICH: As part, also, of that, OPM and the Army have worked to demonstrate electronic receipt of personnel security investigation results from OPM. That's one thing they have done, in all due -- in all fairness. They have done a better job of going out and doing the investigations.
As you know, the Department doesn't -- you do the investigations. They send the people to you, you do the investigations, and then you send them back to them and then they do their thing. And that has been improved, because they finally have done it electronically. And I would hope that you would continue to work with the agencies to expand that technology.
People aren't aware of this but, you know, backlog of security clearances, particularly with private contractors, it's costing us a lot of money.
MR. BERRY: It's huge. And it prevents -- quite frankly, is a vulnerability to the country, Senator, because if we don't have the right people in these jobs, and the job is vacant because of the time delay, you know, it could be creating a serious vulnerability and leaving ourselves open to something that we don't want to happen.
So it needs to be faster. It needs to be more efficient. And my pledge to you would be -- this is a longstanding issue, and I know the attention that has been brought to this, that a lot of people have worked on it, if you give me the job I will add my skills to this and see if I can help bring something forward for you.
SEN. VOINOVICH: I make one suggestion to you: Get a hold of GAO, because they're the ones that do the rating on this; find out what's causing them heartburn (laughter); and I won't be around, but I would love to know that this isn't still on the high-risk list. And if you could knock that off the list, that's a big "gold star."
MR. BERRY: Yes, sir, I will work very hard on that. It's critical for the safety of the country and for our citizens, and so I would devote the attention, and time and energy to this to see if we could bring that "gold star" home.
SEN. VOINOVICH: Great.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much, Senator Voinovich.
Let me ask my final questions here.
Mr. Berry, I think we agree that we need to make the federal government -- and this is what Senator Voinovich and I have talked about, to make the federal government the employer of choice for the best talent in America, and you've mentioned that too in your statements.
According to a recent report from the Partnership for Public Service, government and public service are the most popular industries for undergraduate students. As the economy continues to struggle, the stability of government service becomes even more attractive. It is important for agencies to seize the opportunity to bring in top-notch talent, especially to meet the pressing need to manage and oversee economic recovery spending.
How do you plan to help agencies quickly hire highly qualified employees to meet current needs, and to ensure that the federal government fulfills your vision of being the nation's model employer over the longer term?
MR. BERRY: Mr. Chairman, I think -- thankfully, OPM has already been hard at work on one of those. I think there are two critical positions -- if you will, classifications that are essential to the success of the stimulus effort.
The first is contracting officers. If we don't have good contracting officers, there's an awful lot of money that's going to be spent out there and it'll be spent poorly.
We need to ensure it's going to be spent well. We have to have professionals doing that job, and we need them fast.
And this is one where OPM has awarded direct-hire authority to agencies in that regard. We need to look at what else we can do. And that's one where I think you all have looked at: retirement flexibilities, where maybe some of these folks, who have specific skills in the set, we might be able to bring back for limited terms to help in these situations. So, we need to do everything we can to get good, sound expertise into procurement officials as fast as we can.
The second most important one -- and it's critical, it's a great opportunity for us -- my experience in both government, and in the public sector and in the nonprofit sector is during tough times, when agency budgets decline, the first thing that happens in the nonprofit world is education positions get cut. In the public sector, the first thing that gets cut are human resource professionals. They always believe -- and they believe it erroneously, "Well, we can, you know, we're not going to be hiring people as many, so we don't need as many people in our shop right now." So, they whittle that down.
Well, then something comes along where you've got to hire people fast and now you have a skeleton crew. And they're expected to preserve the merit principles, and hire the best and the brightest, but to do the workload that is 5, 10, 100 times greater than what was expected of them when those cuts were originally made. We need to rebuild that human resource function in the agencies.
And so my hope is, if I'm given this job, is that OPM can take advantage of this opportunity and develop a short list. In other words, short-circuit the process, create a pool of human resource professionals -- that they have already vetted, that they have done the talent search on, that they have allowed competitive examination and application on, and create a pool that agencies you could say to them, "Look, secretary of Commerce, here's a pool. You need a human resource officer, you can meet the folks in this pool. If you like them, hire them on the spot. You don't need to do anything more. Keep interviewing them until you find somebody you like, and hire them, and get them to work the next day."
And, I think if we can do that with human resource professional jobs in this situation, we may be able to rebuild some of the damage that's been done throughout the government in our human resource function right now, and put in place the people that we're going to need to rely on for all of these other areas that we've been talking about today. And so I think those are just two opportunities, two very critical and important opportunities. As we find out, through the process, that we need to, we're going to have to jump in with that -- hopefully, that same approach.
But kind of like, Senator, you were saying, you know, 'make your own agency work.' I think, it's a -- "Look Homeward Angel" is a good practice. In this case, we can't -- maybe we can't fix everything, but let's say we fix two. And if we got those two to work well, and work right, then we can use that as a model to move on to the next one, and the third one, and the fourth one, and keep going, and just, hopefully, keep moving forward, forward, forward. And that's the spirit which I'll try to bring.
SEN. AKAKA: Mr. Berry, one of OPM's many roles is to help veterans --
MR. BERRY: Yes sir.
SEN. AKAKA: -- returning to the workforce and funding -- in finding federal employment, and understanding how Veterans' Preference works. OPM has a website that serves as a resource, but I'm concerned that OPM is not doing enough. How would you ensure that agencies use Veterans' Preference properly and help veterans seeking federal employment?
MR. BERRY: Mr. Chairman, there is no more serious responsibility to the director of OPM. Our men and women who have put themselves in harm's way to protect our freedoms deserve the absolute best service when they return. I will be a passionate defender of Veterans' Preference. It is a wonderful program; it has been in place since the Civil War; and it has been an effective tool to help us re-engage people who come back from serving their country and putting themselves in harm's way.
I believe we can't just stop with a point system. We fail, if that's all we do -- is to give them the points. We've got to give them the training. We've got to give them the accommodation. Many of these people are disabled. We need to put in place, and make simple for the agencies, the technologies and the abilities to employ these folks.
And that can be done very centrally. One of the things I did at the Department of Interior, that I was most proud of, was we created one center for disability technologies that any bureau of the Department of Interior could go and use. And if someone came in and said, look, we have someone who has a sight impairment; or, we have someone who needs a special tool to do their job, it was that agency's job to work to find the solution. And they would go out, whether -- the Defense Department does a super job at this, but they'd work with Defense.
But sometimes, in the government, we don't have the solution. We go the private sector. We find the solution -- and that person's job was to find it, no matter what, and make it work. And then that tool was there that allowed us to actually bring the person -- who really wasn't disabled. My experience is "disability" is a terrible term. They're "differently-abled." They oftentimes have greater skills and greater senses to offer to us if we can just give them the tool to succeed.
And so I think we let our veterans down when we stop the process at the point system. We need to make it as a full re-engagement process, and we need to work -- not only within OPM but within all the federal government, to give full access to technologies, to tools, and to retraining so that they can get the, we can get the best out of their services and they can continue to serve their country in the civil capacity.
SEN. AKAKA: This is my final question now.
I know you will be doing a lot of studying and learning to get up to speed on all of the details of federal personnel policy and the workings of OPM. And I'm confident that your ability -- your ability to do so. As you approach these new topics and issues, what will be your guiding principles in making policy decisions?
MR. BERRY: Mr. Chairman, that's a easy answer for me, and it is "what's the right way, what's the best way?" And I think if -- my experience has been, if you can put those two questions first and foremost, all the time, you will always end up further ahead than you otherwise would.
I grew up in a house -- I mentioned in my statement, my mom and dad were both Republicans. My brother's a Republican and my sister and I are Democrats. We used to have very interesting dinner conversations. But, you couldn't grow up in our household and not recognize that nobody, no party, no person has a lock on the truth. And you get through that by being fair and open in communicating with people, and striving to find "what is the right way, what is the best way."
And so, through my experience -- I think you've seen this, sir, over the 25 years we've been, I've been very pleased and honored to work with you, from many different angles and capacities -- that's how I approach every challenge. I don't look at, what is -- "just because we've been doing it that way for 50 years." I always asked -- people, wherever I've worked, will tell you the first question out of my mouth is always, "Wait a minute. What's the right way? What's the best way?" "And let's not rest until we find it." And we may have to compromise along the way, we may -- it may be "a bridge too far today," but we can at least be working towards it. That's the spirit that I would bring to this, sir, if you honor me by confirming me.
SEN. AKAKA: Well, thank you so much for your responses to my questions.
SEN. VOINOVICH: We had a chance to talk about this when you were in the office.
I have been very, very interested in performance management, and I notice that the president has made a big deal out of the fact that he is interested in performance. And one of the ways you get performance is by performance evaluation and letting your folks know whether they're doing a good job, or not doing a good job. But, more important than that, to fold them into the management and set some goals for them, in terms of how the various parts of your agency are operating, so they really fully understand the role that they're playing.
There's three areas where we did some work. One is the Senior Executive Service, where we went to pay-for-performance -- and I think we also folded in some of the technical folks that are at the agencies. I'd really like you to look at that, because in some areas it's been really successful, in other areas it's not been as good as it should be. I attribute that to the fact that maybe they didn't do the training that they needed to do for folks.
The other area that we worked on was -- right in the beginning, was TSA. And as I mentioned to you, I know there's going to be an effort made to change that, the TSA system. And I'd like you to publicly tell me whether or not you are willing to objectively look at that system before you would recommend any changes in it.
MR. BERRY: Absolutely, Senator.
I can make you that promise right here on the record -- not only in that case, but in all of the issues we've talked about today.
I don't come into this with any answer in my head right off the top. I need to approach these; I need to learn; I need to meet with all of the relevant parties and agencies; understand fully the complexities that are involved in these issues; and see if we can find consensus and common ground as to, again, "what is the right way, what is the best way," and work together, not only with people within the Executive Branch but within the Legislative Branch -- with you and your staffs, in determining those issues.
SEN. VOINOVICH: So there'll be -- there'll be, definitely, a move on, I'm sure, this year or next, to take TSA and put it under Title 5. We've had it -- from the beginning it -- we have a new, a different personnel system to stand it up. I've worked with Kip Hawley on several reiterations. And I'd really like you to look at that.
And I also think it's important that you get out and find out about the employee satisfaction with the system. There are always people that are unhappy with it. But, I'd like to, you know -- now, your commitment's good, you said you were going to look at it objectively. I think that's really important.
The other area that is extraordinary is that we have over 200,000 people in the civilian part of the Defense Department that are part of a pay-per-performance system. The information that I've received back is that it's been quite successful, although I will say that I'm going to be visiting installations in Ohio -- in Columbus and down at Dayton, to, again, touch base with the folks there to see, you know, how they feel about it, and so forth.
But, again, I'd like you to look into that, because, again, there will be some folks who say, no, we don't -- let's get rid of this thing. I just think that, from my experience in government, for, you know, a lot of places -- mayor, governor, that this has really made a difference, in terms of our people and their job satisfaction. And I've talked with Senator Akaka -- we haven't introduced the bill yet, but, again, performance evaluation in all of the federal departments.
And it doesn't necessarily have to be done with pay. I know one place you ought to look is the GSA. The man that ran that agency was Steve Perry, who worked for me when I was governor -- he was head of administrative services. Steve went over there and went to work, and really put a good performance evaluation system in place. And the interesting thing is that if you look at some of the ratings that people get, you know, it's like 98 percent. (Laughs.) It's a perfunctory kind of thing. And what happens, I think, under that kind of system is, that if it's just perfunctory then people just figure, hey, it doesn't matter.
And you'll get around and you'll see agencies where they'll have (play ?) people. Some of your best hitters are people that would like to be recognized for the job that they're doing. And one of the problems, I think, we have in government -- and I've talked to one person after another that's left the federal service, they just said, "I go to work for an agency; I work my butt off; and I don't get recognized for it:" and others, who just kind of come in and, you know, do their thing.
And I'm saying most people are -- do you understand what I'm saying?
MR. BERRY: Absolutely.
SEN. VOINOVICH: It's really not good. And what happens many times is, if you don't have it, you're going to lose your best people.
Another thing is that if I'm going to go to work for an organization, I want to know about your performance evaluation. And, you know, "if I work hard here, what are my chances of moving up and being recognized?" So, I really would like to have you spend some time in that area -- because I know you're going to get the rush on, "hey, this is bad," and, you know, so forth, but to me it's something that's important for the future of our country.
And the other thing is if -- you know, you've mentioned, and I think it's very good, is people ought to be able to move in and out of government. And if you look at the way it works today, very few people come in laterally here.
You know, one of the things Senator Akaka and I did was a little simple thing like dealing with the leave time. You know, they'd hire somebody -- and you're probably familiar with it, "come to work for me; take a little bit less money;" but the person's excited; goes home to his spouse and says, "You know, the money's not as good as it was, but I really like the job." And, "Well, what's the leave?" you know. "Well, if you work for one year, you get two weeks; if you're there for three years, you get three weeks; and then if you work there for 15 years, you'll get a month."
Well, we changed that now so that we can bring people in at that level. But also they're interested in knowing 'if I come to work over into this shop, what kind of -- is it going to be that much different than the kind of environment that I was in the private sector?' Thank you.
MR. BERRY: Senator, I think you've hit on many points there, and if I could just comment on a couple.
We have got to expect the best and we've got to figure out ways to deliver it. And appraisal systems are -- it is one of the toughest things, and I think it goes to human nature. Whether you're a parent, or in whatever capacity you are, no one wants to be the deliverer and bearer of bad news. You know, parents are slow to discipline their kids often because they're afraid, "Oh, how are they going to take it? "How is this going to impact them?" et cetera.
Managers are just the same and, consequently, they put it off. And, one of the things -- oftentimes we put people in management jobs; they promote up over time; we say, one day they come in and we say, "okay, you're a manager;" and we give them absolutely no training. And here's this person who's thrown into this complex environment -- of EEO, that is extremely complicated; appraisal systems that they're not given any training on whatsoever, how important it is; and they're expected to manage.
And so, consequently, they fall back to what is traditional human nature, "Well, try to make everybody happy." And in appraisal systems you can't make everybody happy. And my experience in the federal government is 99.5 percent of the employees are top-notch, outstanding. But, just as in the private sector, there are problem employees. And if somebody is not doing their job, if they are not performing up to the standard, it is demoralizing to everybody to see that. And it has got to be dealt with. They've got to be addressed.
Aand we've got to do that through fair appraisal systems that, if people aren't doing the job, and they're not meeting those core responsibilities, they should be removed. And we need to be clear about that. We need to expect the best. We need to ensure the American people we're getting the best. And we've got to figure out how to do that in a way that sort of recognizes that core human -- and I would consider it sort of like a "human flaw," if you will, that we're afraid to tell people when they're doing the wrong thing or they're heading in the wrong direction.
We need to let our managers know, "in fact, you're helping that person." The people who I have had to do that with, where I've had to say, "You know, look, you're on the wrong road. And if you can't get on the right road, you'd better be updating your resume. It's gotten to be that serious. And I expect you to -- I'll work with you on this, but you need to know I'm taking this seriously now and I'm watching."
And twice people have come back to me in later years and said, "You know, your doing that changed -- you know, focused me; realized that I shouldn't -- I didn't realize I should have been doing these things." And it's a manager's responsibility to bring those out -- and, in fact, people will welcome it, and it will make us achieve that goal of expecting the best.
So, it's a tough one. And I don't know of anybody who's nailed it. And so I -- one of the things I look forward to doing this, both with the Defense Department, and TSA and in other agencies, I do not come into this with any predetermined, you know, belief, or any commitment to anybody on these issues. I will come into them with a fair mind and look. And if it's working, and it's right, then we ought to see, "can we translate that; can we transfer that; can we expand on that?" If we can't, and if it's not working, then let's fix it, and let's figure out what will work.
But, it is a tough one. And appraisals are tough. It's got to be done. We've got to figure out a way to do this, and do it fairly, so that our employees -- you know, that it's not used, or misused or abused, I'm not defending that. But people need to know that there are clear -- that their performance standards are set; they're agreed on with management; and they're held accountable to them; and they're regularly checked and evaluated on that.
And that should be not just for employees in the Defense Department and TSA, it needs to be for every employee in the federal government. And we need to be about making that work and work well, because that's the only way we're going to be able to guarantee the public that they are getting the best. So, I --
SEN. VOINOVICH: And if you can do that in your shop -- (laughter) -- you will be the "best practices." (Laughs.)
MR. BERRY: I will do my best, sir, if you give me the job.
SEN. VOINOVICH: I thank you.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much, Senator Voinovich.
Mr. Berry, there are no further questions at this time. There may be additional questions for the record, which we will submit to you in writing. The hearing record will remain open until the close of business tomorrow for members of this committee to submit additional statements, or even questions.
I know you are anxious for your nomination to move forward. It is my hope that the committee will vote on your nomination in the very near future and that it will be considered expeditiously by the full Senate.
And so, with that, thank you very much for your patience, and for your family being here and your extended family as well.
This hearing is adjourned.
MR. BERRY: Thank you Mr. Chairman.