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DoD to Enroll 11,000 Civilians Into New Personnel System in April

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2006 – The Defense Department is preparing to implement the first phase of its new pay-for-performance civilian personnel system in late April, a senior official said here March 3.

At that time, about 11,000 DoD civilians will be enrolled into the National Security Personnel System, Patricia S. Bradshaw, deputy undersecretary of defense for civilian personnel policy said during an American Forces Press Service interview.

"It was always a passion for me that some day we would be able to do this," said Bradshaw, who'd been familiar with pilot civilian pay-for-performance programs conducted at two Navy installations in California a decade ago.

A senior civilian personnel expert with 27 years of DoD and Navy service, Bradshaw worked in the corporate world for six years after she retired from the government in 1999. She recently came back to DoD help its work force become more capable and relevant in the post-Sept. 11 era.

DoD and the Office of Personnel Management have partnered to create the NSPS, a personnel management process that eventually will apply to more than 650,000 DoD civilian employees.

The Navy's civilian management pilot programs conducted at facilities at China Lake and San Diego proved to be forerunners of today's NSPS, Bradshaw said. Those early programs "simplified the job descriptions so they could move people around more easily," Bradshaw recalled. "But, at the end of the day it was the pay-for-performance piece and the desired end-state of retaining your top performers" that stood out.

Under NSPS, "if you want to be a star performer, we're going to differentiate and we're going to pay you that way," Bradshaw said. That "is the underpinning theme," she said.

Bradshaw said the world has changed greatly since terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Those attacks influenced Congress to give DoD the authority it needed to change the way it pays and manages its civilian work force, she said.

"The support we got for that on the Hill was as a result of the lessons learned from 9-11," Bradshaw explained. The war against terrorism also prompted DoD to adopt "a system that allows us to move individuals quickly and have a more agile way of assigning people, and more specifically, figuring out what competencies they have," she said.

One of the personnel management tenets contained within the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review is developing a competency-based personnel management infrastructure on both the military and civilian sides of the house, she said.

Bradshaw said DoD's old civilian personnel system hamstrung supervisors because its narrow job descriptions and associated paperwork worked against quickly assigning people to more urgent duties. "We really don't know what other capabilities you have or competencies you bring to the table," Bradshaw explained. "Maybe you were a contract specialist at one time."

The NSPS brings the ability to catalog and identify employees' skills so managers can access them quickly, Bradshaw said. This "allows us to make these movements and assignments in a much more agile way," she said.

The ability to quickly move civilians where they are needed most -- including overseas -- is a key desired benefit of adopting NSPS, Bradshaw said. "Right now we are able to do this through volunteers," she said. However, the war against terrorism brings everyone "a lot closer to the front lines" than during the Cold War.

"It causes us to think again how we deploy civilians," Bradshaw said. "We are part of the total force." DoD must be more deliberate on developing its senior civilians, she said, so they acquire a joint view of the military and a better understanding of how it accomplishes its missions.

That kind of experience "can't be gained by staying in your own organization -- in your own 'stovepipe' -- year after year and then expecting to then leapfrog to a very senior position in the Department of Defense," Bradshaw said.

Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey recently announced a new policy that calls for senior civilians to be moved around to gain more experience rather than staying at the same organization, Bradshaw said. "It just hasn't happened in a very deliberate way in every service," she said.

In 2003, DoD began work to establish a new civilian personnel compensation and management process that rewards employees according to performance. Fifty-year-old civil service rules mostly tied employees' raises to an individual's length of service.

In February 2005, the American Federation of Government Employees and a dozen other labor unions filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department over the establishment of NSPS. U.S District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled Feb. 27 that proposed NSPS provisions would not protect civilian employees' ability to bargain collectively. DoD and OPM officials continue to work with the Department of Justice to determine the next steps relative to the ruling.

Meanwhile, the department is moving forward with implementing the performance management, compensation and classification, staffing, and work force shaping provisions of the new system, which is slated to occur in late April, according to a statement on the NSPS Web site.

Contact Author

Patricia S. Bradshaw

Related Sites:
National Security Personnel System

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