Changes required

In recent years, we have heard dire warnings about the aging federal workforce. Those predictions have not come to pass, largely because the failing economy has limited the job options outside the government. That aside, there is little doubt that the federal personnel system is broken. It is complex and overly bureaucratic.

Lawmakers and the Bush administration have taken a swing at trying to change that. The National Defense Authorization Act, which the president signed late last month, includes the National Security Personnel System, which provides the Defense Department with more flexibility in hiring, classifying, paying and promoting employees.

The system combines several pay and personnel systems and links pay to performance, giving managers greater leeway for hiring and firing.

The changes, though aimed at solving legitimate problems, have some employees concerned, especially union members, who argue that the new system removes any strengths employees may have had. And there are significant concerns that politics could play a role in hiring. Or firing.

Those concerns are valid. But inaction is no longer an option. The cliche is actually true: Things have changed as a result of Sept. 11, 2001.

During the past few years, DOD has been under intense pressure to transform. Some of that is the result of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's plan to change the military. But much of it has come about because of a dramatically different post-Cold War landscape. Although the rest of the military has been forced to change, its pay and personnel system remains largely untouched.

Today, agencies have to be more agile and flexible than they were before. And being efficient and productive requires systemic changes — not the least of which means rethinking outdated personnel policies and practices.

Do these changes go too far? Will they solve the problems? It is unlikely. But we will undoubtedly learn something during the coming years that can improve personnel practices across the federal government.

Rising Stars

Meet 21 early-career leaders who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • SEC Chairman Jay Clayton

    SEC owns up to 2016 breach

    A key database of financial information was breached in 2016, possibly in support of insider trading, said the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DOD looks to get aggressive about cloud adoption

    Defense leaders and Congress are looking to encourage more aggressive cloud policies and prod reluctant agencies to embrace experimentation and risk-taking.

  • Shutterstock / Pictofigo

    The next big thing in IT procurement

    Steve Kelman talks to the agencies that have embraced tech demos in their acquisition efforts -- and urges others in government to give it a try.

  • broken lock

    DHS bans Kaspersky from federal systems

    The Department of Homeland Security banned the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab’s products from federal agencies in a new binding operational directive.

  • man planning layoffs

    USDA looks to cut CIOs as part of reorg

    The Department of Agriculture is looking to cut down on the number of agency CIOs in the name of efficiency and better communication across mission areas.

  • What's next for agency cyber efforts?

    Ninety days after the Trump administration's executive order, FCW sat down with agency cyber leaders to discuss what’s changing.

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

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group