Exit interview: Angie Bailey

Angela Bailey speaks at her retirement party on Dec. 15, 2021.

Angela Bailey speaks at her retirement party on Dec. 15, 2021. Photo credit: Mike Beaty

Angie Bailey was the chief human capital officer at the Department of Homeland Security as it built and launched its own personnel system for cybersecurity personnel. Here's some of what she learned about the government's ability to recruit and retain cybersecurity and IT talent.

After four decades in public service, Angie Bailey recently stepped down from the post of chief human capital officer at the Department of Homeland Security. She previously worked at the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Defense.

Bailey spearheaded the development of DHS' personnel system for its cybersecurity workforce, called the Cybersecurity Talent Management System, which launched in 2021 after being authorized by Congress in 2014. It allowed DHS to operate outside of existing workforce regulations to create a new personnel system with its own evaluation system and pay rates.

She sat down to talk to FCW about her work and the future of the government's cybersecurity workforce. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

FCW: What was it like building out CTMS?

BAILEY: When I got to DHS, I discovered that we had what was called Title Six. It was legislation that Congress gave us, and they basically gave us a blank check to be able to write and create a brand new personnel system for the cyber workforce. And so for me, it was like, oh, how fun! This is like civil service reform on steroids. 

Let's not waste it by dinking around the edges and just adding another grade on the GS system and trying to figure out ways to have interchange agreements with OPM, et cetera. Let's actually do civil service reform. So as a result, we actually walked away from OPM's qualifications system. We walked away from their classification system. We walked away from their pay system, and we started from scratch. 

FCW: What challenges did you face in developing and launching CTMS?

BAILEY: So the challenge for us was, people expected that when they gave that authority to DHS, Congress in particular, expected when they gave us that authority in December of 2014, that by the summer of 2015, we'd have a brand new personnel system.

[Also] working through all of the different lines of effort that it takes… For example, the payroll system that we all operate under is, you know, based on the GS system. So when you introduce something that's market sensitive pay and all it's clunky, you have to create codes to mirror or match it so that you can even just get your first hire paid - just this one small administrative detail. 

FCW: One criticism DHS received was the amount of time it took to develop CTMS. How do you respond to that?

BAILEY: You have to build systems around, how are you gonna value that specific skill, that specific experience and education, and then how are you gonna pay for it? So all of that took so much time to think through - like, what would be the best way to be able to do that, to make sure that we were still adhering the merit system principles? 

Here's what I say to the community at large: we did all the hard work. It took us seven years. If any federal agency wants this, it's not proprietary information. What I said when I was at DHS is that any federal agency can have what we did. They can have the entire playbook.

FCW: Others have also said that the system ends up creating internal competition among agencies that can't compete with DHS without the same flexibilities. Do you have any response?

BAILEY: I heard this all the time -- this isn't fair. And my response was 'that wasn't that my job'. My job … was to make sure the DHS was as highly competitive, if not the most competitive within the federal agencies.

It all begins honestly with Congress actually deciding that beyond DHS, they're willing to expand this authority to other federal agencies.

If I was the queen of Congress, I would actually amend Title Six to make it for all positions in all federal agencies…Why can't this be the actual legislation that is used across the federal government for all federal agencies, all federal positions? And then OPM's role in all of that would be to help administer Title Six.

FCW: What have you learned about civil service reform?

BAILEY: Look, we've all been talking about civil search reform as long as I can remember…  [The system] goes back to a government that was just basically made up of clerks and assistants and very much administrative work. The federal government has moved way, way, way beyond administrative work. So the classification system has just never has never caught up to that. 

This is what I've learned. Civil service reform is hard. It can be done. We proved that, that it can be done. The bottom line is that we just need folks to have the guts to actually allow it to happen. We need legislation. 

FCW: Some unions have expressed concerns about other similar programs that provide exceptions to Title 5. What's your response to that and others who voice concerns about broadening this type of authority to more agencies?

BAILEY: There are so many different reporting mechanisms and oversight authorities. You've got the [inspector general], you have the [Government Accountability Office], you have [the Office of Personnel Management] and it and its authorities… There's all these different ways to monitor whether or not an agency is actually fulfilling the merit system principles. Why not do that? Why stop everything and just believe that it's, well, it's not gonna work, or agencies are gonna be nefarious.

FCW: Many agencies struggle to recruit the tech talent that they need. What advice do you have?

BAILEY: There's a lot of really incredibly smart CHCOs out there that actually know how to do this... So here's my advice is that somebody needs to – either a federal agency or it's OPM with OMB at its side – get up on the Hill, needs to sit down with Congress and lay out an effective legislative strategy… It's all possible, but it all begins with sitting down with Congress and helping Congress understand why this change is necessary. Now there's other key stakeholders - the unions are one, veterans organizations are another one and then there's, of course, good government groups as well, so it needs to be a collaborative effort. 

Until that happens, we're just gonna keep dancing on the head of a pin, because that's what we're doing right now. And so it all begins with the legislation and then it goes from there.

FCW: Finally, what's next for you? 

BAILEY: I created a business called AnandaLife, LLC… I really wanna help integrate and think more through  the whole human experience that people are having. It goes beyond just the job… I just am incredibly passionate about this whole idea of really thinking about the whole person and what goes on in their lives and how we enrich that.

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