Some at DOD get big raises

Civilian employees who received the highest job performance rating under the Defense Department’s National Security Personnel System saw 10 percent average raises in their Jan. 24 paychecks. Pay raises across the board under NSPS averaged 5.4 percent.

Employees who had been anxious about their pay should have been pleasantly surprised, said Mary Lacey, program executive officer of NSPS.

“The pay raises are there, and they are fairly significant,” she said.

The total payout in raises was not higher than it would have been under the older General Schedule of pay grades and steps within grades that NSPS is replacing, but the distribution is different. Lacey said DOD promised its employees and Congress that it could create a fairer, more flexible pay system without spending more money on raises and bonuses than it did under the old system.

“And we kept that promise to our employees and Congress,” she said in a Jan.

23 interview on Federal News Radio.

However, the American Federation of Government Employees said it had concerns about the fairness and transparency of those raises. “The danger here is they’re going to be robbing employees at lower-graded levels to provide extremely high raises to employees in elite units inside the Pentagon,” said Beth Moten, legislative and political director at AFGE.

For the first time, some employees received no raises if they received a job performance rating of unacceptable. That money went instead into a pay pool that DOD distributed on the basis of ratings by employee supervisors and performance benchmarks that are standard across all component agencies of DOD.

Lacey said employees have expressed concerns about the fairness of those ratings, but she categorically denied that DOD has set quotas for the distribution of performance ratings and raises. Setting quotas is against the law, she said.

A major benefit of NSPS compared with the GS system is flexibility, Lacey said. Managers can reassign people and give them a salary increase when they assign them new duties. “You can’t do that under the GS system,” she said.

DOD has listened to complaints about some of the automation tools that managers are supposed to use in evaluating employees’ job performance, Lacey said. “We’re fixing some of those to make it a lot easier.”

One of the primary concerns that employees have had about NSPS will soon become moot, Lacey said. President Bush is expected to sign the fiscal 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, which would effectively kill provisions in NSPS related to labor relations, adverse actions and appeals that are the subject of litigation.

Because of the litigation, DOD has never implemented those portions of NSPS, and now it almost certainly never will, Lacey said.

None of the 110,000 DOD civilian employees who are now paid under NSPS are unionized, but DOD expects eventually to have most of its 700,000 civilian employees, including union members, in the pay-for-performance plan.

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