By Stephen Barr
Thursday, June 9, 2005
The launch of a new pay and personnel system for civil service workers at the Defense Department, scheduled to begin next month, has been delayed until later this year, according to a Pentagon announcement.
Spiral One, as the Pentagon calls the launch of the National Security Personnel System, will start in phases beginning in October, officials in the NSPS program executive office said.
Last year, the Pentagon announced that 300,000 civil service employees at military bases across the country had been selected for the launch of the pay and personnel system. The first phase of Spiral One in October will involve 60,000 employees, including civilians at Fort Belvoir, Fort Myer and Andrews Air Force Base.
Pentagon officials originally projected that planning sessions and meetings with labor leaders would be completed by now. They also said they would be "event driven" and would not rush the system to meet artificial deadlines.
Labor leaders are scheduled to meet next week, probably for the last time, with Gordon England , acting deputy defense secretary, and Dan G. Blair , acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, to review union concerns about the NSPS. Union leaders have denounced the NSPS as an effort to strip workers of their job rights and protections.
Joyce K. Frank , spokeswoman for the NSPS, said officials expect to publish revised regulations this summer. Although the NSPS could begin 30 days after the final regulations are published, Frank said the system will not be underway until the DOD issues internal directives and until managers and workers have begun training.
The NSPS, as outlined in a Feb. 14 proposed regulation, will revamp pay, performance management, employee appeals and labor relations. A key feature calls for abolishing the General Schedule pay system and moving Defense employees to broad salary ranges so managers can give more weight to job performance in setting pay. When converting to the new system, no employee will take a pay cut, and some may get raises, officials have said.
Tentative plans call for shifting the first 60,000 employees into new job performance plans in October. The employees would receive the traditional January pay raise authorized by Congress and then, in late January, shift to "pay bands" -- the broad salary ranges that will replace the GS system. Under the new timeline, the employees would receive their first NSPS raises in January 2007.
Other changes, such as revamped employee appeals procedures, also will take effect in late January, the officials said.
More groups of Spiral One employees will phase into the NSPS next spring and next summer. After an evaluation of Spiral One, the remainder of Defense employees will shift to the NSPS in the next two to three years, Frank said.
One of the most controversial parts of the new system -- strict limits on what can be put on the bargaining table by unions -- will probably take effect in September on a department-wide basis. The Pentagon had originally announced that union rules would change in July.
Unions represent more than half of the DOD's 746,000 civil service employees, and 10 unions have filed a lawsuit to stop the new labor rules.Social Security Hearing
Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.), chairman of the subcommittee on Social Security, has scheduled a hearing for today on two parts of Social Security law that numerous federal employees believe are unfair.
Repeal of the government pension offset and the windfall elimination provision are top legislative goals for groups that represent the interests of federal retirees, teachers and other public employees.
McCrery, in announcing today's hearing, said, "As we work to strengthen Social Security for the future, we should examine proposals to ensure teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees are treated fairly under the program."
The government pension offset reduces an individual's survivor benefits under Social Security by two-thirds of the amount of the public pension, and the windfall elimination provision reduces Social Security for retirees who paid into Social Security and also receive a government pension.