The president's top adviser on federal management policy is not sure that he likes the buzz phrase "pay for performance."

In a recent interview, Clay Johnson III, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, said: "There is a tendency to view civil service modernization as pay for performance. That is a bad term."

Johnson said the phrase makes it sound as though government employees are part of a retail or sales staff rather than public servants who have taken on the difficult task of devising ways to measure the performance of their organization and link agency goals to the job performance of each employee.

"Pay for performance sounds like we are on the commission basis here. We're not," he said. "It suggests that the entire raise is going to be based on performance. It's not."

He added: "There is a tendency to view this as all about pay for performance, which means we are salesmen. We're not."

The Bush administration's plan calls for tossing out the 15-grade General Schedule and replacing it with broad salary ranges, called "pay bands." Salaries would be set according to occupation and local and national labor market rates. Job performance ratings would play a key role in raises. The idea, officials have said, is to get away from across-the-board raises for all employees, regardless of job performance, and give a bigger share of pay raises to the best workers.

Johnson said he's open to suggestions for a different way to describe the Bush administration's plan. "I don't know what the phrase is," he said.

Pay Bill in the Works

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is considering introducing legislation to overhaul civil service pay and personnel rules, a spokesman for Flake said.

The Bush administration has drafted a bill that would abolish the decades-old General Schedule pay system by 2010 and replace it with a system that would give managers more discretion in setting pay.

Matthew Specht, Flake's spokesman, said the lawmaker has been talking with the administration "about ways that we can work together on this." Specht said, "We are still in the process of crafting the details of the bill."

Flake crafted a letter, signed by 18 House members, that was sent to President Bush this year urging the administration to expand the new personnel system planned for the Department of Homeland Security to other federal agencies.

"The time has come to promote a personnel system that mirrors the market and requires management and employees to work together to achieve the same goals," the letter said.

NTEU Wins Overtime Case

New law enforcement officers who were required to work an unpaid day each week during training will receive retroactive overtime pay, the National Treasury Employees Union announced Friday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, had put new officers on a six-day training schedule at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga., but contended that a labor law made them eligible for only five days of pay, the union said.

The union filed a grievance, and the arbitrator ruled that the officers were entitled to time-and-a-half for their sixth day of training, the union said.

Kristi Clemens, CBP's assistant commissioner for public affairs, said the agency will not appeal. "As a law enforcement agency, CBP considers our employees our most valuable resource, and we will work with NTEU to resolve the situation according to the arbitrator's ruling," she said.

CBP officials familiar with the case were not available for comment late Friday. Information on how many officers will be entitled to the overtime pay also could not be learned.

Colleen M. Kelley, president of NTEU, said she was pleased by the outcome of the case, which was brought in 2003 on behalf of former Customs Service and canine enforcement officers sent to Georgia for the training.

Kelley said most of the officers were in training for nine to 11 weeks and will be paid for Saturday duty during that period. She said she had urged CBP executives to find a way to pay the overtime to the "brand-new employees" because it would help "win their hearts and minds" to federal service.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com