New Civilian Personnel System Set to Kick Off April 30
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 26, 2006 The first phase of the new National Security Personnel System is ready to launch April 30. "Spiral 1.1" includes 11,000 Defense Department civilian employees throughout the United States.
"The most important message is that we are ready," Mary E. Lacey, NSPS program executive officer, said. "Employees are trained, supervisors are trained, leaders are leaning forward, and we're ready to go."
Lacey explained that employees in the first group to enter the program "have been working on performance standards that are outcome-based and measurable so that as they go into NSPS they will know what performance is expected of them right from the beginning."
Most preparation for the program's implementation has dealt with training employees and supervisors. Both groups have had extensive Web-based and classroom instruction on the ins and outs of the new program, Lacey said.
Lacey spoke to American Forces Press Service via telephone from Kansas City, Kansas, where she had been meeting with some of the first spiral's employees at nearby Fort Riley. She has spent considerable time and will be spending more time meeting with employees in the first spiral in such far-flung locations as Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, as well as in several agencies in the Washington, D.C., area.
Another senior official in Lacey's agency traveled to Hawaii to meet with Army and Navy employees in the first spiral.
"I am trying to get out to see as many of the 1.1 organizations as I possibly can," Lacey said. "It's part of the communications initiative to give them an opportunity to speak to the senior leadership of the department, answer any questions they may have, explain to them some of the philosophy behind the changes and to thank them for all their efforts to get ready for NSPS.
"I think it's important for folks to be able to ask one on one why we're doing things and for me to answer any questions," she added.
Lacey said that "enthusiasm and excitement of the workforce is very high" in places she's visited, but added that many employees are concerned about their supervisors' ability to fairly evaluate performance.
"This is not unexpected. Most of the department has been effectively on a pass-fail system for quite a while, so this is new," she said. "And that's one of the reasons we've spent so much time training employees and supervisors on performance management."
She said she reassures employees that supervisors have received extensive training in performance management and that multiple leaders will be involved in the performance-evaluation process.
Program officials originally planned to include about 60,000 employees in Spiral 1.1, but several factors, including ongoing litigation over collective-bargaining rules, contributed to the need to curtail that number.
Lacey explained that officials reconstituted the group so it included only nonbargaining-unit employees. The number also had to be cut because of delays in implementation brought about by the legal issues.
"Once we got the judge's decision, we only had a limited amount of time and it was a throughput issue on the training," Lacey said. "We didn't want to shortchange any of the training."
A few pay-related aspects of the program employees may not be aware of are the initial within-grade buy-in and the local market supplement.
Employees being transitioned into NSPS will receive the next step increase due to them in the old GS system prorated for the amount of time that is left until they would be due the pay increase.
What is called locality pay in the existing personnel pay system will now be called "local market supplement" under NSPS. This is a percentage over base pay based on geography, Lacey explained. She said the system will use the same scales the rest of government uses for now, but this may change to a system based on specific jobs if officials feel they need help with recruiting and retaining hard-to-fill specialties.
NSPS officials want employees to know that they will be closely monitoring the program's implementation to immediately deal with any problems that may arise during the transition.
"We will be monitoring how these 1.1 activities do and continue to keep the lines of communication open with the senior leadership and employees so that we get early indicators if there's any difficulties, so we can look at it and determine if it's a training need or of it is a systemic thing that needs to be tweaked," Lacey said.
She also noted that the evaluation results will be made available to employees. "That openness has been our philosophy with NSPS right from the beginning," she said. "They deserve to see how it's going."