House appropriators pan DHS plans for ‘chief employee experience officer’

DHS budget document say the new "CEXO" would help the department consolidate its employee engagement goals, as well as recruit and retain top talent.

In the opening salvo of the fiscal 2025 spending debate, House appropriators are not supporting a new Department of Homeland Security initiative focused on employee experience, among other cuts.

The GOP-led House Appropriations Committee’s homeland security subcommittee approved its fiscal 2025 DHS funding bill on Tuesday. And the legislation does not include DHS’s request for $5.5 million to support the establishment of a “chief employee experience officer.”

The House bill is now slated for consideration before the full committee. Senate appropriators have yet to release their corresponding spending bills.

DHS’s budget request outlined the department’s vision for the “chief employee experience officer.” It would also be located within the management directorate and staffed by 12 full-time-equivalent employees.

In budget justification documents, DHS states that the new “CEXO” is “crucial to enhancing coordination efforts to promote and elevate the recruitment and retention of top talent within DHS.”

The CEXO would also serve as the senior DHS official in charge of coordinating the department’s activities under President Joe Biden’s executive order on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the federal workforce. “At DHS, this function has a broader meaning and purpose to include all facets of the employee experience,” the budget documents add.

While the House subcommittee did not provide a specific explanation for declining to fund the new office, Republicans have broadly sought to stymie the Biden administration’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

The subcommittee’s summary of the funding legislation states the bill “focuses DHS on its core responsibilities,” including by “preventing the department from carrying out its equity action plan or advancing critical race theory.”

But DHS budget documents state “the primary focus” of the new CEXO office “will revolve around our continued pursuit of outreach, recruitment, and the retention of top-tier talent.”

The CEXO would be a member of the senior executive service. The office would also include a deputy CEXO, four program managers, two program analysts, two HR specialists, a budget analyst, and an acquisitions support professional.

DHS officials have celebrated the department’s recent improvements in Federal Employee Viewpoint Surveys (FEVS). But “momentum going forward will be difficult without a dedicated office to ensure that appropriate resources are focused on understanding and improving the employee experience,” budget documents argue.

DHS AI office not supported

The House subcommittee’s bill also didn’t include a requested $5 million to establish a new artificial intelligence office.

DHS has already named Chief Information Officer Eric Hysen in the dual-hat role of “Chief AI Officer.” But DHS’s budget request is also seeking the funding for the new AI office, also in the management directorate, to help support Hysen and the department’s AI task force.

The new AI office would “support implementing infrastructure, technologies, and processes to advance the responsible and ethical use and adoption of AI and the charter of the AI Task Force,” budget documents state. “This includes planning the infrastructure needed for AI and establishing data management and engineering practices to prepare data for use in AI models.”

DHS has staked out ambitious plans for AI, including a goal to lead the government in the responsible use of AI. An AI roadmap, released by DHS this spring, details several specific uses cases, as well as broader policy initiatives focused on AI.

 

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