Joe Davidson's Federal Diary

By Joe Davidson
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Step by step, federal employees are feeling the impact of the Obama administration on their lives.

The latest step came yesterday when the Pentagon and Office of Personnel Management announced that, pending a review, no more civilian employees would be moved from the long-established General Schedule -- aka GS -- method of classifying workers to the much-maligned National Security Personnel System.

The review could turn into an NSPS obituary.

"This administration is committed to operating fair, transparent and effective personnel systems, and we are undertaking this review to assess whether NSPS meets these objectives," said Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, who ordered it.

The verdict of federal employee unions on those questions was delivered long ago.

"This policy was a product of the ideologues of the previous administration aimed at suppressing civilian pay and eliminating collective bargaining rights," said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. He said he met with Lynn last week and told him NSPS is fundamentally flawed.

"It is about time we ended it," Gage said.

NSPS marked the Bush administration's most forceful attempt to eliminate the GS system and replace it with a pay-for-performance structure. But many employees have never trusted it to fairly evaluate or compensate them.

Even statistics released last month, indicating that NSPS workers generally received higher raises than GS staffers, did nothing to quell that opposition.

The opposition was bolstered with a Feb. 13 letter from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz (D-Tex.), chairman of the readiness subcommittee. They told Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that the system has generated "widespread distrust and discontent within the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of dedicated DOD employees."

In September, the Government Accountability Office said "employees who had the most experience under NSPS showed a negative movement in their perceptions." In plain English, the more they saw of it, the less they liked it.

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