House bill defunds parts of NSPS

Citing basic workers’ rights, Congress and courts denounce DOD personnel system

The House version of the Defense Department budget, passed June 20, defunds portions of DOD’s embattled National Security Personnel System that a federal court ruled illegal in February. NSPS, in its current form, would foster a workplace environment that “results in destroying basic worker rights and jeopardizes our ability to recruit and maintain qualified, skilled workers to protect our national security,” Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) said on the House floor.

DOD wants to replace the existing 15-grade personnel General Schedule with NSPS, a pay-for-performance system that could affect more than 700,000 DOD employees.

Inslee co-sponsored the defunding amendment to the fiscal 2007 appropriations bill with Reps. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Inslee has been leading the congressional opposition to NSPS for some time. His district includes the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, which employs thousands of DOD workers.

DOD ignored the wording and spirit of the NSPS authorizing legislation that Congress passed in 2004, Van Hollen said. He characterized the amendment as a reaffirmation of congressional oversight.

In February 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan called the program “the antithesis of fairness,” when he ruled that certain parts of NSPS regulations were illegal.

He said NSPS “fails to ensure that employees can bargain collectively,” that the proposed National Security Labor Relations Board “does not meet Congress’ intent for independent third-party review,” and that “the process for appealing adverse actions fails to provide employees with fair treatment.”

DOD filed an appeal in April, and a group of unions, which the American Federation of Government Employees led, filed a cross-appeal in May.

DOD’s alleged exclusion of labor groups in crafting NSPS was a central impetus for the original lawsuit.

“Of course, money is important, but the other issue is the right to representation,” said Byron Charlton, chairman of the United DOD Workers Coalition, a group of 36 labor unions. DOD replaced the term “negotiation” with “collaboration” when dealing with union leaders, he said.

Nevertheless, DOD is moving forward with portions of NSPS unrelated to labor relations. Those include pay for performance, compensation, job classification and staffing rules. Spiral 1.1 of NSPS went into effect in April and included 11,000 DOD workers. The original plan to include 65,000 employees was reduced because of the litigation. The next phase, Spiral 1.2, is due in October.

NSPS is now being tested mostly with employees who do not belong to unions and are not covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Union leaders met with NSPS officials on June 28 to discuss the active parts of the program, but negotiators made no progress, according to several union leaders. At this point, prospects for bringing NSPS in line with workers’ demands are grim, they said.

Pending a complete redesign, NSPS should not move forward at all, said Ron Ault, president of the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. Money spent on the current NSPS framework is a complete waste, Ault said. “It’s like going out and buying a car you can’t drive.”

The Government Accountability Office is currently conducting a six-month review of NSPS to determine total costs.

DOD officials and union leaders are courting senators to avoid a similar amendment when the Senate marks up its version of DOD’s budget later this month. The union’s strategy focuses on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) are the prime targets of attention, according to union sources.

NSPS: A timeline

Feb. 14, 2005: The Defense Department publishes draft regulations to create the National Security Personnel System.

Nov. 1, 2005: DOD publishes final regulations for NSPS in the Federal Register.

Nov. 7, 2005: DOD unions sue to block portions of NSPS regulations.

Feb. 27, 2006: A court rules that DOD officials did not properly consult with the unions.

April 30, 2006: NSPS adds the first 11,000 nonunion employees — mostly human resources staff and upper-level managers.

— Josh Rogin

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above