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DoD, OPM to Appeal Civilian Personnel System Ruling

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2006 – The Defense Department will appeal a federal judge's decision to block portions of the new civilian personnel system, a National Security Personnel System official told American Forces Press Service today.

The Justice Department filed a notice of appeal earlier this week with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on behalf of DoD and the Office of Personnel Management, Andy Ames, a Justice Department press assistant, confirmed today.

The notice signals DoD's and OPM's intention to file a formal appeal to overturn a previous court decision blocking NSPS, Ames said. The two organizations are partnering to establish the system, which eventually will affect more than 650,000 DoD civilian employees.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled in late February that provisions of the new system would fail to protect civilian employees' ability to bargain collectively. These provisions pertain to labor relations, collective bargaining, independent third-party review, adverse actions and the National Security Labor Relations Board, DoD's proposed internal labor relations panel, the 77-page decision noted.

The American Federation of Government Employees and 12 other labor unions filed a lawsuit in November 2005 challenging the proposed system.

Joyce Frank, NSPS spokeswoman, said DoD is working closely with the Justice Department and looks forward to presenting DoD's position before the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The appeal process will not affect the first phase of the system's implementation, scheduled for April 30, she said. About 11,000 DoD civilians will convert to the new civilian personnel system that day in "Spiral 1.1" of the phase-in process.

NSPS is one of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's key initiatives designed to transform DoD operations to better meet 21st-century needs. It is designed to replace an outdated, 50-year-old civilian personnel management system that had rewarded employees for length of service rather than performance. The new program, in development since 2003, replaces the current general-schedule personnel system with broad pay bands.

Rumsfeld pointed yesterday to the new civilian personnel system as example of the many sweeping changes within DoD that are causing discomfort among people resistant to change.

"We have passed a National Security Personnel System so that we could begin to get a grip on how we manage the Department of Defense and the civilian population, the work force, which is so important," Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters.

"And it's tied up in the courts, and it'll take time. It's been three years, I think, that we've been struggling with it, so far. And that's hard for people, that change," Rumsfeld said. "The idea of paying for performance is stunning for some people."

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