Officials Express Confidence in New Civilian Personnel System
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2005 Pentagon officials want to emphasize to civilian employees that the changes in their personnel system are all about improving national security.
After a two-year process, officials have designed the new National Security Personnel System to be faster, more flexible and more agile, said Michael Dominguez, assistant secretary of the Air Force and head of the NSPS product team.
"This whole personnel system has been designed to focus on national security and support to national security," he said. "It's important, because the nature of the threat is changing."
The system is performance-based and civilian employees can "take ownership of their performance and their success" in the national security mission, said Mary Lacey, the program executive officer for the system.
The regulations governing the system go into effect beginning Dec. 1. However, a number of federal employees unions have vowed to stop implementation.
"We collaborated with the representatives of the unions in the design of NSPS," said Dominguez. "We received their inputs during the comment period and modified the regulations around them. It's unfortunate that everyone won't be happy with these regulations, but I think we've tried to strike the best balance that's possible."
The system requires DoD to continue collaborating with the unions as implementation progresses. "Their feedback to us is essential," he said.
Lacey said the labor relations portion of the regulations become effective Dec. 1. The human resources portion of the system - the staffing, the classification, the performance management pieces - will phase in over a number of months in the January to March timeframe, she said.
Characteristics of the new system are new position descriptions, broader pay bands, faster hiring and better federal sector competitiveness with private firms, Lacey said.
The first 60,000 people will transition into the system early next year. "They will be given new performance standards," Lacey said. "It's very important that we not make any performance-based pay adjustments until they have had the opportunity to perform under those standards and performance factors.
"It won't be until January 2007 that their pay will be adjusted based on performance," she emphasized.
When people transfer into the system, they will have "run time" in the current grade step, Lacey said. As part of that transition, DoD will "buy out" the remaining time for a within-grade increase. "So you'll find that the vast majority of our employees upon initial transition to NSPS will get a pay raise," she said.
Dominguez said he has a lot of confidence that the department can handle an effort that will transfer 650,000 civilian employees in 41 civilian personnel systems into a performance-based pay system. He said the department has had a number of performance-based demonstration projects - the most famous being China Lake, Calif., begun in 1979.
Roughly 45,000 DoD employees already are covered under some sort of performance-based pay system. "In the Department of Defense we have extensive experience in managing these transitions to performance-based pay and in running performance-based pay systems," he said. "We have very, very high confidence that we have got this pretty nearly right and that high-quality leaders and employees out there will make this work."