Mary Lacey brokers pay changes
Program executive leads DOD through a difficult personnel system transformation
- By Richard W. Walker
- Oct 12, 2007
As program executive officer for the National Security Personnel System, Mary Lacey is leading the transformation of pay rules and labor/management relations that affect the Defense Departments 740,000 civilian employees. The implementation of NSPS is arguably one of DODs greatest internal challenges.
For Lacey, a member of the Senior Executive Service and three-decade veteran of the department, leading the design and deployment of NSPS has been a roller-coaster ride. In 2006, more than a year into the program, a U.S. District Court judge struck down rules related to collective bargaining, labor relations, independent third-party reviews and adverse actions.
In May, however, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned the lower courts ruling. The American Federation of Government Employees and the United Department of Defense Workers Coalition, representing about 600,000 DOD workers, have vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court.
Despite the court challenges, the department has, by most accounts, made significant strides in deploying NSPS under Laceys leadership.
NSPS is one of the one of the biggest and most ambitious [human resources] program changes in decades, said Max Stier, president and chief executive officer at the Partnership for Public Service. The progress made to date in implementing NSPS and in achieving positive results is directly attributable to Marys leadership, persistence and openness.
About 113,000 civilian workers mostly in white-collar positions are covered by NSPS rules governing staffing, job classification and performance management. About 10,000 workers have already received their first performance-based paychecks, Lacey told a National Press Club audience in August. Its well into the implementation.
Nonetheless, Lacey faces formidable hurdles, this time from Democrats in Congress, who are seeking to pass legislation that would nullify the management/labor relations portions of NSPS, which have not been implemented.
Laceys stature as DODs kingpin in the push for fundamental workforce reform doesnt mean that she takes an imperious approach to managing NSPS. On the contrary, as a career federal executive with more than 34 years in government, Lacey understands how absolutely critical it is to get the people part of any organization right, Stier said.
She also brings a hands-on management style to the job. John Priolo, retired president of a Federal Managers Association chapter in Hawaii, described Laceys efforts to communicate the details of NSPS to FMA members as accommodating and insightful.
Indeed, officials at DODs labor unions, despite their indefatigable opposition to NSPS, are inclined to agree. Weve always viewed Mary as a very reasonable and fair person very competent and very dedicated to her job, [DODs] mission and to the national security of the U.S., said Matt Biggs, legislative director at the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, a member of the United DOD Workers Coalition.
Having said that, he added, its unfortunate that a person of her high character and her strong support of the DOD workforce has to be in charge of putting together a system that the evidence and history has been shown to be fueled by ideology and not by the best interests of DOD or the taxpayer.
Lacey said she believes unions and management must form partnerships so DOD can successfully meet its national security mission. In the long run, weve got to move [forward] together, she said.
I think she does believe that, Biggs said. Her rhetoric and actions have proven that to be the case. She is management. But she does want to work with the workers to put together good personnel policies at DOD.