Director Calls Personnel System Transition ‘Rewarding’
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2011 The Defense Department’s transfer of more than 170,000 civilian employees out of the National Security Personnel System since 2009 has been smooth, the transition’s director said today.
John H. James Jr. said much of the credit for the transition goes to the services.
“The components have done a very good job,” he said, adding that his office had reviewed and approved the transition plan each of the services submitted.
“Our guidance in the beginning was that we would have the least possible impact to employees and the least possible impact to mission,” he said. “The components have accomplished that.”
Most of the employees moved out of NSPS so far have returned to the general schedule pay system, James said. Those remaining in NSPS will predominantly return to other performance management systems.
When employees transferred to NSPS originally, most of the other performance management systems were effectively dismantled, James said. When employees later were required to move back into the previous systems when Congress abolished NSPS, “we needed a little bit more time to put those back in place,” he said.
The Acquisition Demonstration Project and the Science Technology Reinvention Laboratory Demonstration Project are two such systems, James said, and most of the remaining NSPS defense employees will return to one or the other.
“There are other, smaller performance management systems that employees will be transitioning to, but those are the two big ones,” he said.
The law governing NSPS transition specifically states employees must return to the system they came from, he said.
Congress established NSPS through the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act and directed its repeal in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, which also set the timeline for repeal completion.
“We started with approximately 226,000 employees in the NSPS performance management system,” James said. “We have transitioned approximately 172,000 –- right around 75 percent -– of the employees out of NSPS, which was the direction [for 2010] that we got from the deputy secretary of defense.”
During the move from NSPS back to previous positions, each employee’s job had to be reclassified, James said. Major changes in duties and responsibilities for any particular position could be reviewed by the servicing human resources office during reclassification.
“And that has, in fact, occurred,” he said. “There are some cases where an employee is not happy with their classification, and we published on our website the process they had to go through to appeal a classification concern.”
Communication with the work force during the entire process has helped to ensure a smooth transition, the director said.
“We’ve been working very hard to make sure we keep everyone informed,” he said. “As we make every step, we communicate to the work force: ‘this is our progress toward transition, this is when your group will transition, and this is the process we’re going to go through.’”
Some employees, such as those who were first hired under NSPS, had never worked under the general schedule system, James said.
“We put ‘GS 101,’ a course, on our website,” James said. “We recommended that employees who had never been on the general schedule, and employees who had been in the general schedule system, go review it. It was very informative, an easy read and easily understandable.”
James said the course was designed to emphasize to employees that while NSPS was a broad-pay-band system, the general schedule system has “discrete grades with very discrete [pay] steps.”
“There is a difference between them -– there’s not a clean overlay between the two systems,” he said.
Some employees were concerned that changing systems would mean a cut in pay or position, James said, but the law ensured no employee would face a pay decrease during the transition.
“The components made this a priority,” he said. “They were very concerned about sending the proper message to the work force, that … they wanted to make sure the transition was smooth, that we met the mission, and that there was minimal impact to the employees. The components were on top of this the whole time.”
James said 54,000 employees remain in NSPS, and about 6,000 of those will return to the general schedule system.
“We will continue to focus our attention on transitioning the remaining employees,” James said. “We will meet the statutory date of Jan. 1, 2012, where all employees will be transitioned out of NSPS.”
James said his work over the past year has been “a fascinating experience.”
“We will have transitioned 228,000 employees out of NSPS to statutory non-NSPS performance management systems,” he said. “That’s more employees than are contained in any federal agency other than the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
“Talking to the components and my staff and seeing the dedication it takes to do this has been very rewarding,” James said.