Senate bill would kill DOD performance pay, curtail sole-source contracts

The legislation would end the National Security Personnel System by 2012

The Senate has passed a bill that would end the National Security Personnel System and make it more difficult to award sole-source contracts. The measure would authorize spending $550.2 billion on Defense Department programs in fiscal 2010.

On Oct. 22, the Senate approved the fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act’s conference report by a vote of 68 to 29; the House passed the bill Oct. 8. The legislation now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature. The conference report is a compromise between the House and Senate versions of the same bill.

The report contains an important provision to end the NSPS, a pay-for-performance compensation system for federal employees. The National Treasury Employees Union and others say NSPS curtails employee rights in the workplace, including the right to collective bargaining. 

Lawmakers want the program canceled by Jan. 1, 2012, according to the report. About 205,000 of DOD 's 865,000 civilian employees are in NSPS. Some federal employee unions also want the NSPS killed.

The bill also would make it more difficult for contracting officers to award sole-source contracts. The provision, which would apply governmentwide, would require contracting officers to explain why a sole-source contract of more than $20 million is in the government’s best interest.

Also, some lawmakers contend that contractors are being allowed too far into the inner workings of agencies and are coming too close to inherently governmental functions, or to work that only government employees can do.

As a result, they are requiring a review of those services to see if regulations and official guidance are keeping contractors in check.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the conference report promotes Congress' main policy objectives, including “eliminating waste and recovering savings through acquisition reform, and maintaining robust oversight of [DOD].”

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Wed, Oct 28, 2009

This Rumsfeld "puppy" should never have been instated in the first place. The GS system works. People just need to do their job and be held accountable...thereby receiving proper ratings and end-of-year bonuses, etc.

Tue, Oct 27, 2009

I was never convinced that the GS system was broken. It does need some updating, but I think it is a good system. NSPS always concerned be because it leaned towards management doing what they wanted with no recourse for the be-rated employee. This always concerned me. There is no reason a GS employee cannot be fired for poor work. It might be more difficult than it should be. That could be part of the current GS system that needs fixing. So fix it and quit trying to re-invent the wheel. That said, there were some things with NSPS that had some good promise. But in a political society, the good things would have been discarded just like many of the good things in GS are discarded. I am glad to see NSPS go away. I never saw it as a fair system. GS has a lot of good in it and can still serve us very well. But it could stand to use an update and probably should be updated to meet the needs of the times without the massive overhaul that NSPS was trying to accomplish.

Tue, Oct 27, 2009 Paul

I'm glad to see a few more people pointing out that while flawed, NSPS was still better than the old system. One thing I would like to point out, however, is one of the problems we found that some people mentioned here. That is the issue of setting MEASURABLE goals. Our work is very intangible and is highly reliant on our peers and our customers acknowledging the quality of our work rather than the quantity. When we switched to NSPS, the hardest part was trying to assign numbers since most of our work is highly variable. We have no control over the amount or type of work. We have to be flexible to the situation. It's like judging a Marine on how many insurgents he killed when he should be judged on the quality of his decisions to fire or not (and how would you quantify that?). It just depends on the circumstances, not the person. I can understand the desire to set quantifiable goals to help prevent abuse but keep in mind it isn't a blanket solution. Ultimately, any system that rewards effort is prone to abuse because effort is a subjective idea. The alternative is communism, which is what the GS system mirrors, by giving rewards regardless of service.

Mon, Oct 26, 2009 Iowa

I work in a large ammunition plant and I know of a Security Specialist that was forced out of the GS system and into the NSPS system. Since being in the NSPS system, he has lost 2-3 thousand dollars a year as compared to what he would have been earning under the GS pay scale.

Mon, Oct 26, 2009 Mark NoVA

While portions of NSPS were flawed, the goal of the system was not. Killing the whole program rather than fixing the flaws amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. ITS A TRAVESTY OF WASTE. Nonproductive government employees are almost a protected class of citizen these days. In fact, when trying to get rid of one, the supervisor is placed at risk of an EEO complaint and could be fired before the nonperforming employee, who may just keep their job. Its disgusting.

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