Defense Switching More Workers to NSPS

By Stephen Barr
Thursday, July 13, 2006

About 66,000 Defense Department civil service employees will make up the second wave of workers converting to a new personnel system that more closely ties pay raises to occupations, locations and job performance, the Pentagon announced yesterday.

The Defense employees will shift into the National Security Personnel System from October to January. The first phase of 11,000 employees converted over a two-week period that began April 28.

The NSPS is one of the biggest changes in the civil service since 1978, when Congress reorganized the personnel and labor-management relations systems on a government-wide basis. Defense officials hope that the new system will make it easier to quickly hire experts and reassign employees as the department responds to terrorist and other post-Cold War threats.

Under the NSPS, "employees will be focused on outcomes that support our national security mission and they will be rewarded for results," said Michael Dominguez , principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

The employees selected for the second phase belong to more than 40 major Defense commands across the country and overseas. They include more than 750 employees at the Washington Navy Yard, 378 employees at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and 537 employees at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

As in the first phase, members of the second group of employees scheduled for conversion hold jobs that are not covered by union contracts.

The selection of management and other non-union jobs permits the Pentagon to avert any legal wrangling with a coalition of Defense unions, including the American Federation of Government Employees. The unions have sued to stop parts of the NSPS that labor leaders contend would gut collective-bargaining rights. A federal judge has blocked the start of the NSPS labor rules, and the department has filed an appeal. The labor coalition also is lobbying in Congress to block funding for the parts of the NSPS enjoined by the federal judge.

The Defense Department has about 650,000 civil service employees, and the Pentagon's long-range plans call for shifting most into the NSPS, which sets out new rules for pay, employee evaluations, job classification, job assignments and layoffs.

A central feature of the new system is "pay bands," or broad salary ranges, that will replace the decades-old, 15-grade General Schedule used across most of the government. Defense officials view the General Schedule as inappropriate for the high-tech, multi-tasking workplace and contends that the pay system rewards longevity rather than excellence.

Through a more rigorous job rating system, officials hope to use the NSPS to provide the department's best workers with higher raises than are possible under the GS rules.

Employees will not take a cut in pay upon conversion to the NSPS and most will receive a raise to account for time earned toward their next within-grade increase, the Pentagon said.

Mary E. Lacey , the NSPS program executive officer, said the four-month window for shifting employees into the system will help ensure that managers and employees receive training on the new pay and personnel rules.

"We want to give organizations sufficient time to train employees, do it right and implement when they are ready," she said.

Lacey said she has met with officials involved in converting the first 11,000 employees and found that the process had gone smoothly. "We are pleased with what we are seeing thus far, at least with the technical aspects of conversion," she said.

Employees in the second phase will be rated under new performance appraisal criteria, starting the day of their conversion, and will receive their first performance-based pay raises in January 2008, the Pentagon said.

Moving On

Kristi M. Clemens , assistant commissioner for public affairs at Customs and Border Protection, is leaving the Homeland Security Department to work for a security risk management company.

Clemens previously served as a director in the press office of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad and worked at the Federal Transit Administration and the Small Business Administration.

Stephen Barr's e-mail address

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