USA — Director Calls Personnel System Transition ‘Rewarding’

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.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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