The DorobekInsider Reader: National Security Personnel System recommendations

Monday - 8/31/2009, 8:20am EDT

One of the big stories of the week — and possibly of the year — are the developments with the National Security Personnel System. NSPS, of course, is the Defense Department’s pay-for-performance system — it was the attempt by the Bush administration to develop an alternative to the government’s long-standing General Schedule pay system, which emphasizes longevity but does almost nothing to recognize performance.

There were a goal of the National Security Personnel System was to create a more flexible personnel system that aligns more clearly with the Defense Department’s goals.

Here is how the final report of the Defense Business Board’s task group on NSPS describes it:

In 2003, Congress enacted the NSPS.  The aim of the NSPS was to establish a more flexible, mission-based personnel management system that linked to DoD’s mission and organizational goals…

Today, as the DoD faces an almost unprecedented tempo of operations, there is an urgent need to align the Department’s resources to its priorities and to rebuild critical capabilities within the workforce.  Successful performance management systems have the potential to enhance organizational performance and drive effective results.  Flexible compensation and classification tools are required to support the recruitment and retention of high quality employees.

Most managers — and even most government workers — acknowledge that the government’s GS system just doesn’t work well. But many also acknowledge that NSPS didn’t do it well either.

The Bush administration had a big misstep with NSPS: They refused to include the government employee unions in the discussions about the program. That being said, the employee unions are, by in large, opposed to changing the pay for performance system.

To its credit, the Obama administration did not just do away with NSPS. Instead, the Obama administration asked the Defense Business Board to review the pay system. After several months — and several public hearings that felt like some of the health care town halls this summer — the Defense Business Board NSPS task group issued their final report last week. The group’s findings:

1. Initiate a reconstruction of the NSPS within DoD that begins with a challenge to the assumptions and design of NSPS.  The Task Group recommends a “reconstruction” of the NSPS.  A “fix” could not address the depth of the systemic problems discovered.  The Task Group does not recommend an abolishment of the NSPS because the performance management system that has been created is achieving alignment of employee goals with organizational goals.

The reconstruction should include a true engagement of the workforce in designing needed changes and implementation.  Finally, the reconstruction should include desired outcomes and data collection to measure results.

2. Reestablish a DoD commitment to partnership and collaborating with employees through their unions.

3. Establish DoD’s commitment to strategic management and investment in career civil servants.

4. Continue the existing moratorium on transitions of more work units into NSPS until DoD can present a corrective action plan to address identified issues, supported by data that the implemented corrective actions will address the identified issues.

I have pulled together a number of resources about NSPS because, it seems to me, this is a big issue and could be a real opportunity for government.

* The final report of the Defense Business Board’s task group on the National Security Personnel System [PDF - Scrib Flash version]

* Defense Department’s National Security Personnel System page

* The current GS pay systems… including a FAQ from OPM

* Coverage of the Defense Business Board’s final report…

Read more — and hear many of Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s interviews about NSPS — here

Rudy deLeon is the Senior Vice President of National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress. He also served as the chairman of the Defense Business Board’s NSPS task group. Hear that conversation here.

Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller pulls together reaction to the board’s report