Mary E. Lacey, program executive officer for the National Security Personnel System at the Defense Department, joined the Senior Executive Service in 1996, not 1966, as reported in the May 25 Federal Diary column. (Published 5/26/04)

A longtime career federal employee, Mary E. Lacey, has been named to run the office that will develop plans to overhaul the civil service pay and personnel system at the Defense Department, the Pentagon announced yesterday.

Lacey was named program executive officer for the new National Security Personnel System and will report to Navy Secretary Gordon England. Lacey had served as technical director of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, which oversees weapons and systems testing, research and development at six major divisions.

"NSPS will truly impact everybody -- military and civilian -- serving in the Department of Defense," Lacey said in a statement. "I am committed to ensuring that the future of NSPS will include an open and two-way dialog; will recognize and respect the value to the nation of our civil servants; and will protect their rights."

A Pentagon spokeswoman said Lacey would not be available for media interviews until after she has made the transition to her new post.

As part of her duties, Lacey will work with the Office of Personnel Management "to lead broad collaboration within an open process," allowing for feedback from Defense employees, managers and labor leaders, England said.

Congress authorized creation of a new personnel system for the 746,000 civil service employees in the Defense Department last year -- one of the biggest workplace changes inside the government in decades.

The Pentagon, however, got off on the wrong foot with some members of Congress, OPM and some labor leaders when some Defense officials created the impression that they were rushing the launch of the system.

After Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld selected England to oversee the process, the Navy secretary put it into slow gear, saying he intended to approach the personnel overhaul as he would the development of a large, complex weapons system.

Lacey, as head of the NSPS project office, will oversee teams that will work on an array of personnel issues, such as compensation, employee appeals of discipline and the bargaining rights afforded unions.

Although no decisions have been made, the new system seems likely to shift Defense employees out of the 15-grade General Schedule and into new pay categories that more rigorously link pay raises to a worker's job performance ratings.

Lacey began her Navy career as a federal junior fellow in 1973 while in college and became a full-time Defense employee in 1978. She has been a member of the Senior Executive Service since 1966. She received a bachelor's in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland.

As technical director of the Naval Warfare Center, she was responsible for a $4 billion budget and more than 16,000 employees. More than 9,000 of the employees -- many of them scientists and engineers -- are in demonstration projects created to test and track whether changes in personnel rules improve recruitment and retention and increase productivity. A number of the pay and personnel changes in the demonstration projects probably will be carried over into the NSPS.

Previously, Lacey served as executive director at the warfare center's Indian Head division and as the division director of science and technology at the center's Dahlgren division.

"She is a great people person," said Steve Mitchell, who worked for and with Lacey for five years. "In addition to the responsible positions she has held for many years, she puts a great deal of time into mentoring people. That is very important to her."

Mitchell, ordnance product area director for the Naval Sea Systems Command, said Lacey "is really dedicated to the federal service, so she is a great choice" to lead the NSPS program office. "She has an awful lot of knowledge to go along with her leadership skills."

Lacey is a government trustee of the National Defense Industrial Association and was recently named Laboratory Director of the Year by the Federal Laboratory Consortium.

At Indian Head, she emphasized cooperative partnerships with industry and academia to advance the chemistry of propellants and explosives.

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