FCW Forum

DOD readers debate value of NSPS

Readers debate the problems and potential of DOD's pay-for-performance system

Many readers welcomed the news that the Defense Department would not shift any more employees to the National Security Personnel System until it had conducted a thorough review of the pay-for-performance program, while some disagreed with the decision. Here is a representative sampling of comments posted on our March 16 article. Some comments have been edited for style and length.

Intolerable inequities

According to the managers I have spoken to, NSPS is more work and yet achieves the same results as the old General Schedule merit-based system. I also heard it is unfair in that two people with similar jobs and similar job performance may receive different pay incentives depending on the pay pool they are in. This is because pay pools may receive different levels of funding to pay for these incentives.

If the government is looking to save money, this is the system to keep. My co-workers are jumping ship, retiring and resigning at record levels as they see their pay dwindling because the "favorites" have all but drained the pay pool, [leaving] little to divvy up amongst the rest of us. Was this just a bad joke??? And don't even get me started on the new "Defense Travel System."

Objectionable objectives

I received three straight years of multiple performance awards prior to converting to NSPS. I continued to perform at that rate but under NSPS got nothing to show for it. Some left, but as is mostly the case, the hardest workers will stay regardless because they are dedicated. NSPS helped out some of the poor performers by letting them develop their own objectives and criteria, management accepted that and the winners were the best at writing, as usual.

As someone who received top marks I will gladly state the system is unfair. However, the biggest problem is the huge amount of time that is wasted in setting objectives, writing them up, and reviewing them. Far too many hours by senior personnel are spent on reviews with the intent of being fair. I have been left waiting for important documents to go out because no one above me is available. My management doesn't have the time to engage in this exercise. While the GS system wasn't fair either, it was what most of us signed up for.

Could be worse

Perhaps those under imminent threat of going into NSPS can breathe a sigh of relief, but no one has said a word about the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System. DCIPS is an NSPS clone with even more paperwork. I still haven't figured out how to write an unclassified "performance objective."

The merits of NSPS

NSPS is the way ahead for DOD in giving the government the ability to weed out the non-performers that have given civil service a bad rap for many a decade. Many of us observe those that come in late, make little progress in their work day, take long lunch hours, accept many personal calls at their desk, if not on their personal cell phones, and then leave early. Thus, they fully anticipate their next step increase and the annual pay raise as they tack on years toward their much-anticipated retirement. In reality, industry would not tolerate, or condone, such behavior but the civil service system of today will, truly the fleecing of America.

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Reader comments

Thu, Apr 16, 2009

All the comments I have seen regarding NSPS have missed one major problem: younger managers moving up through the ranks getting paid way less than their counterparts for performing the exact same job. GS-12's and GS-13's are no longer promoted, they are reassigned. The result is these employees making 25-35% less than their predecessors. This demonstrates that the objective of NSPS is to cut personnel costs long-term.

Wed, Apr 15, 2009 DOD

Last weekend there was an article in the Wall Street Journal about how the NSPS people were getting close to double the raise as those in the GS system - according to OPM. However, the average percent raise they were quoting is only what the top 1 or 2 percent get at my facility and 95% of us were only getting what the GS people were getting for cost-of-living increase. But, we were not getting any step increases like the GS people - which OPM conviently forgot to mention. Right now I am getting about $400/year less than I would as a GS employee and in four months that number will go up to $2,000/year - as a "valued employee". Unless I ever rate in the upper 5%, that number will generally increase over my career. The situation is clear about NSPS - it is designed to cut pay to most (90% or greater) employees and OPM is willing to lie about how "good" it is to federal employees.

Fri, Mar 27, 2009

As someone who has labored under the NSPS system from early on, I can tell you it stinks. The pay pool is the biggest rip-oof ever! I work in an agency that has a central location and many field locations. The central location calls the shots on the money and sends out missives pretty much non-stop reminding everyone of the percentage alloted for raises in any given year. So the field people's scores are held artificially low in order to make sure the central office people get higher scores (to fit the Bell curve) and to get the higher raises. Awards have dried up and, as our job descriptions become more dynamic and "flexible", our pay stays stagnant. I'm close to retirement eligibility and, honestly, that last walk out the door seems mighty appealing.

Fri, Mar 27, 2009 DOD

If the creators of NSPS had been smart, they would have tested the NSPS system by having only supervisors in NSPS for at least 3 years before making a decision to expand it. Upper management only seems to listen to those people and, knowing that all the griping was coming from those people, they might have realized that it was not such a great system and ended it. At the minimum, it would have trained the supervisors, through first hand experience, enough so that they would have a much better idea how to set up the paperwork properly. Instead we got a gigantic mess to deal with rather than a moderately big mess.

Fri, Mar 27, 2009

Wow. I am a contractor and we do not want to control the pay and conduct of civil servants. But what we do want is to work with government employees who are hard working and want to participate in various projects which ultimately benefit us all as Americans. Now, I do management consulting which is different from what I hear about other types of contractors with respect to over runs and ridiculous charges. But please, if there were more competent government employees around (recall, the competition to see if internal government or external contractors could perform better) perhaps NSPS would not have come up. But I'll tell you - this is how I get measured and if I don't perform, I don't get a raise or a bonus. If I do, I reap those benefits. Think of us private citizens who work with SOME government folks who don't pull there weight yet get a salary increase under the other system. Don't let yourself be so jaded. The major issue overall is the training and competence of managers to do this right - it's an art, not a science and not all people are meant to be managers frankly.

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