T he Diary's mailbag is overflowing with comments on the Bush administration's proposal to abolish the predictable and reliable General Schedule pay system by 2010 and replace it with a government-wide system that would link job ratings to pay raises.

It's worth noting that the Diary does not hear, on a regular basis, from employees who think they are paid in a fair and transparent manner or from employees who made the transition to performance-based systems in previous years. That's human nature, perhaps.

Still, the employee comments provide a handy snapshot of the challenges involved when proposing major changes in pay practices. Here's a summary of some of the issues raised by employees last week:

* Haven't we been here before? The government gave up on a "merit pay" system for managers in the early 1990s, so how will the lessons of the past shape the Bush plan?

* Do federal managers who got to be the boss because of their technical expertise have the skills to be leaders? Will they be concerned about honest assessments of their staffs or more worried about their own bonuses? How will employees who fall out of favor with bosses know that their job performance got an objective review?

* Who will watch the supervisors? Under the current system, complaints are filed alleging discrimination and unfair treatment; will they increase under a performance-based system?

* What kind of guarantees will be made to ensure that extra funding is available to reward high performers? What happens when everyone in the office gets the highest job rating but there are not enough salary dollars to go around?

* How will agencies that currently operate pass-fail systems convert to multiple rating levels? Who believes performance ratings will be realistic and avoid "grade inflation"?

* Won't employees who work hard and are quiet end up going unnoticed and unrewarded? Will employees have to "sell" and "tout" their work? Or will the top raises only go to those employees assigned to the administration's favored projects?

* What about the timing of ratings in a person's career? Will employees who get dinged with a rating of less than "outstanding" early in their career be able to make it up with a series of "exceeds expectations" so that lifetime earnings are not eroded?

Administration officials promise that managers and employees will receiving training and that managers will be held accountable for their decisions. The new system also will include safeguards for fairness and allow employees to appeal job ratings, officials said.

Undoubtedly, congressional hearings, when they are held, also will shape the administration's plan. In the meantime, keep sending in your ideas, suggestions and concerns.

NASA Layoffs

The House, in a bill to authorize programs at NASA, has imposed a moratorium on layoffs at the agency until Feb. 17, 2007. The bill was approved by a 383 to 15 vote Friday.

NASA is looking at a reorganization that may abolish some programs and cause substantial job reductions. The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers had sought the ban on layoffs, contending that NASA should perform an evaluation of NASA workforce issues before restructuring.

House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) worked with the union on the moratorium. NASA had told the committee that layoffs would not occur before October 2006.

TSP Investment Officer

Tracey A. Ray has been named chief investment officer at the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, a new position at the agency that runs the Thrift Savings Plan.

Ray will leave the Maryland State Retirement Agency, where she has been a deputy chief investment officer, to join the TSP in mid-August, the board said.

The board's announcement said Ray has 25 years of investment experience in the private and public sectors. Her career includes work as an account executive with Merrill Lynch and as vice president of United States Fidelity and Guaranty.

At the board, Ray will help oversee TSP contracts for investment services and focus on investment policy and asset allocation strategies.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com