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Findings on NSPS Pay Structure Leave Some Cold

Joe Davidson | The Washington Post via YellowBrix

NSPS has been roundly criticized by staff members and union leaders who say subjective performance evaluations could be used to limit pay. The review panel heard many complaints that supervisors were pressured not to give too many employees a rating of 4, out of 5, apparently because money was not available to pay staffers who received the relatively high rating, according to Rudy deLeon, a former deputy secretary of defense who chaired the panel.

Its review is an initial part of an Obama administration effort to restructure the way Uncle Sam judges and pays his workers. The review could play an important role in what the White House, the Office of Management and Budget and the OPM ultimately decide is the best way to evaluate and compensate some 2 million federal employees.

“The thought of starting over on NSPS is comical,” William R. Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said in a statement issued after the meeting. “If the recommendation is to scrap NSPS as it exists today, we should not bother creating a new NSPS in its place. We should start with an entirely new concept altogether.”

The review panel urged the Pentagon to continue the existing moratorium on converting GS employees to NSPS “until DOD can present a corrective action plan to address identified issues.”

Union leaders have a problem with that approach because they believe NSPS is too far gone to correct. “We believe the best course of action is to abandon this failed personnel system once and for all, not try to restructure it,” Dougan said.

A major reason NSPS has failed to gain the support of its employees is that it tried to do “too much too soon,” said deLeon. The reconstruction the panel recommended is “a lot more complicated that just simply fixing the status quo,” he added.

Although the task group was charged with looking at NSPS, its report also made four recommendations for the GS system. Three of them concerned the need for Defense Department management to improve its relationship with staff members. The department should “create a collaborative process” between managers and employees, “reestablish a DOD commitment to collaborating with employees through their unions” and invest in career civil servants, the committee recommended.

Union leaders certainly have no problem with those suggestions, but the remaining one — “explore the replacement of the current General Schedule classification system” — is not what they wanted to hear.

“It’s very superficial,” Gage complained. “It’s cavalier.”

The task group’s report is online at

Contact Joe Davidson at

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