New Personnel System to Add Efficiency, Satisfaction
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 7, 2004 The new National Security Personnel System will improve the working environment within the Defense Department while creating a more satisfied, more productive workforce, Navy Secretary Gordon England said today at a town hall meeting.
"That's what this is about: great job satisfaction," England told his audience of Pentagon workers and Web and Pentagon Channel viewers. "We want everybody to go home every night and brag about the great job they accomplished that day. That is what we are trying to accomplish."
Congress authorized the new personnel system as part of the fiscal 2004 National Defense Authorization Act. It will introduce sweeping changes to the way the department hires, pays, promotes, disciplines and fires its 700,000 civilian workers, doing away with antiquated practices England said have bogged down the department for decades.
For example, the new system will consolidate nine separate personnel systems that now govern DoD civilian workers. England said streamlining these systems into one "will make it easier to manage and certainly better for our employees."
Responding to questions from the Pentagon audience and emails from as far away as Hawaii, England explained that the system will include faster procedures for hiring new workers, pay based on performance rather than tenure and "pay bands" to replace the current general-service pay scale.
Details of the new system are still being worked out, said England, who was tapped by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld earlier this year to put NSPS into place. He added that valuable input has come from a variety of pilot projects, which he called "learning exercises to make sure we've got it right before we start."
By the year's end, England said he expects to publish in the Federal Register proposed regulations for the new civilian human resources, labor-management relations and employee appeals and grievance systems.
The first DoD civilians are expected to come under the new system in summer 2005, and DoD will phase in the system for the next three years, through late 2008, England said.
Despite these projected timetables, England stressed that the implementation will be "event-driven, not time-driven."
"When we are ready we will do it, and not before," he said.
In the meantime, England said DoD is seeking input from all corners to make sure it comes up with the best civilian personnel system possible. "It's a collaborative process, it's not negotiating to an answer," he said. "It is getting input from literally thousands of people around the country and around the world so we can understand their views."
He acknowledged that putting the new system into place while continuing DoD's mission will be a bit of a challenge. "It's a little like maintaining an airplane while it's flying," he said. "The process has to be thoughtful and reasonably measured."
He said the new system, when fully in place, will benefit employees while making the department better able to respond to the challenges ahead, including the terrorism threat.
"The whole premise is to have a highly effective workforce that dearly loves to work for the Department of Defense, is well-trained and highly competitive," England noted. The result, he said, will be "a system that best represents our most valuable asset: our people."