Remaking government with a new salary system
Pay and performance top agenda for change
- By David Perera
- Jun 20, 2005
Bush administration officials say their plan to change the way federal workers are paid and promoted is a central part of efforts to remake the internal workings of government. But skeptics wonder whether the administration's civil service reform proposals will transform government or undermine the federal workforce.
Administration officials plan to send Congress a proposal that would overhaul the way federal workers are paid and promoted, a change they want to go into effect by 2010, according to a draft letter from the Office of Personnel Management.
Granting agencies greater workforce flexibilities "makes it possible for agencies to be better focused on results," said Clay Johnson, the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director for management. "Civil service reform helps us create a performance culture."
In contrast, Jack Hanley, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees' Council of GSA Locals, predicted that reforms would cause "many
more conflicts, a lot more grievances and a lot more workload for the unions and the labor relations people."
But the Bush administration is not alone in its belief about the need to institute pay-for-performance systems. "Human capital reform is an essential
element in order to transform government," said David Walker, U.S. comptroller general.
A group of 18 Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), say they want to vote in favor of a proposal to replace the 50-year-old General
Schedule system of payment and promotion. "The time has come to promote a personnel system that mirrors the market," they wrote in a letter to Bush earlier this year.
In new systems being developed at the Homeland Security and Defense departments, in addition to existing systems at the Federal Aviation Administration and a slew of other agencies, more than half of federal workers will have their salary tied to some measure of performance. But managers at DOD and DHS, which employ 42 percent of the federal civilian workforce, have limited experience with pay for performance. That means the administration should wait until officials can evaluate the effectiveness of those programs before expanding the reforms, many skeptics
say. They also cite a survey of FAA employees released in January in which only 38 percent of respondents covered by that agency's pay-for-performance system give it a favorable review.
DOD's new pay regime, set to launch incrementally beginning July 1, has been delayed by a flood of negative comments from employees and contentious meetings with unions.
The final reform proposal will be released this summer, Johnson said, adding that draft language was released to agencies for feedback. "We've got an awful lot of comments back from agencies, so we need to sort through those comments and pay a lot of attention to them," he said.
David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.