New Civilian Personnel System Moves Forward
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2004 The Pentagon's personnel chief said he hopes to bring the first 300,000 civilian Defense Department employees under the new National Security Personnel System within the next six months.
The system, authorized by the fiscal 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, will introduce sweeping changes to the way the department hires, pays, promotes, disciplines and fires its civilian employees.
David S. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told American Forces Radio and Television Service today that progress in introducing the new system is continuing on all fronts. For example, meetings between management and nine unions representing the department's 400,000 employees covered by bargaining units are slated Feb. 26 and 27.
Chu said the new system will give the department "more flexibility" to manage its civilian work force while making civil service a more attractive career option.
He noted that surveys of young Americans show high interest in military service, but not civil service. "I would like to see us get to the point where they are as excited about the civil opportunities we have to offer as people are about the uniformed opportunities we have to offer," he said.
Among the new system's incentives is the fact that it rewards top performers. "Pay, which now is often driven largely by tenure and longevity, will be much more tied to what you contribute to the mission and the organization," Chu said.
In addition, the new system will open up opportunities often not available to civilian employees. When a new task comes down the pike, Chu said, the standard response is to establish a military task force or call on a contractor. "They don't say, 'Let's stand up a civil service unit," he said. "And there's something wrong with that."
The new system also will eliminate many current rules that Chu said hamper effective personnel management. He said that under the current system, it takes too long to hire people -- an average of three months. He added the current system also makes it hard to pay people properly or move them around. "It's hard to reshape this force," he said.
Chu said DoD is "at the very beginnings" of implementing the NSPS, but is basing the transition on 25 years of proven experience.
More than 30,000 DoD civilians are participating in demonstration projects to test some of the new policies to be implemented departmentwide, he said. The oldest demonstration project, at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California, began in the 1970s.
After the initial transition, he said most employees involved in the demonstration projects "are much more satisfied with their opportunities in the federal civil service than they were before."
In implementing the new system throughout DoD, Chu said planners "spent a lot of time looking at the lessons learned from those demonstration projects" and are incorporating the "best practices" into the system.
"So I think that as people look at a career or look at a substantial period of time in federal civil service, they are going to find this a more exciting choice," he said.