EEOC tweaks government for not reflecting American tapestry

By Joe Davidson
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Diversity in the federal workforce has been a mixed bag over the past 10 years, according to a report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Annual Report on the Federal Work Force shows that the percentage of men among federal employees dropped to 55.9 percent in fiscal 2009, from 57.7 percent in 2000, while women increased to 44.1 percent from 42.3 percent. Diversity was not helped by a small decline in the employment of African Americans, but the portion of Latinos grew slightly.

"As the largest employer in the nation, the federal government should lead the way in creating a diverse and just workplace," said Jacqueline A. Berrien, who chairs the EEOC. "Government employers need to continue to recruit and promote employees who represent the tapestry of America. They must also improve the efficiency of the complaint process so that justice delayed is not justice denied."

Discrimination complaints are up, but just barely, the report found. The number of individuals who filed complaints rose by 1.8 percent in 2009, over the previous year.

At the senior pay levels, white males continue to strongly dominate the ranks, though their percentage dropped to 61 percent of senior pay recipients in 2009 from 66.7 percent in 2000, the report shows. Women increased their presence in the highest pay levels among civil servants, but still comprise just 29 percent of that category. Hispanics also showed a small gain. Black Americans did not increase their representation in the top pay grades and actually moved backwards slightly to 7.05 percent from 7.11 percent.

Pay changes at Defense

Piece by piece, programs to more strongly link federal employees' pay to their performance are being dismantled. The pay-for-performance system for most Defense Department intelligence civilians is now on its way out, according to Defense Under Secretary James R. Clapper Jr.

In an Aug. 1 memo, Clapper said that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates decided to eliminate pay-for-performance, except for employees of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, in response to a report by the National Academy of Public Administration.

That report said the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System (DCIPS) "is fundamentally sound," though its implementation, which began in 2008, "has been flawed." Another, and much larger, pay-for-performance program, the National Security Personnel System (NSPS), which covered many Defense employees, also is coming to an end.

Though pay-for-performance is the part of the intelligence personnel system that has generated the most attention, Clapper's memo said that "the secretary's decision does not represent abandonment of DCIPS."

"The heart of the DCIPS program will stay intact, including the occupational structure, common performance management system, and bonuses tied to performance," Clapper wrote.

At the same time, the employees will move to "a GS-like grade structure," he said. The General Schedule is the government's main employee classification program.

With its set grades, some management experts have complained that the GS program is too rigid to reward outstanding performance while allowing automatic pay raises based on longevity. Union officials have argued that the GS system allows greater flexibility than the government has used or funded.

If Gates and Clapper can construct a performance management system that rewards good work, while keeping a GS-like structure, it could be a guide for the rest of the government. John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, has called for a system that allows for greater flexibility in rewarding workers and more effective ways of managing performance.

The pay-for-performance programs pushed by the Bush administration were not trusted by many workers, who felt bosses could too easily play favorites. Congress also lost confidence in NSPS, and with its demise, the days of DCIPS were numbered.

Clapper acknowledged as much when he said: "The termination of the National Security Personnel System and continued congressional concerns with regard to the effects of pay-for-performance on the workforce have had a negative impact."

Compromised security?

Once again, the Federal Protective Service is coming under fire from the Government Accountability Office. In a new report, GAO said the service's ability to protect government buildings is compromised by a complicated committee system that is responsible for security at federal facilities. Representatives of the FPS, the General Services Administration and tenant agencies are on facility security committees for each building.

Since 2007, GAO has issued numerous reports concerning problems with the service's protection of government buildings. In the latest report, GAO complained that the committees have no operating guidelines and that the tenant representatives often don't have the authority to commit their agencies to security measures.

In response, the Homeland Security Department, which includes the protective service, acknowledged "there is work to be done" but said it was pleased GAO noted actions to address previous recommendations.

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